Recep Erdogan, leader of Muslims

From the BBC:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged leaders of Muslim nations to recognise Jerusalem as the “occupied capital of the Palestinian state”.

The BBC’s Mark Lowen in Istanbul says the rhetoric at the start of the OIC summit was strong.

But the question is what in practice the grouping can do, he adds, given the fact some members are more pro-Trump than others.

Actually, the issue has little to do with Trump. Every generation a Muslim leader fancies himself as the leader of Muslims everywhere or, to begin with, regional boss: the Saudis, being custodians of the two holy sites, believe it should be their king; Egypt’s Nasser pushed his way to the front during the years when Arab nationalism was fashionable; Libya’s Gaddafi was always blathering about forming some pan-Arab-African union or other, headed by himself of course; the Iranians don’t shy away from the role of religious leadership especially among the Shia, but have now spilled into Sunni areas like Syria and Qatar where previously they weren’t welcome. Now we have Erdogan putting himself forward as the natural leader of the region and, he hopes, Muslims everywhere.

He might as well try putting himself at the head of the Combined Manchester and Liverpool Football Supporters Club while wearing a red shirt. If there is one thing Muslims in the Middle East hate more than Jews it is other Muslims from a different sect or tribe thinking they’re in charge. Erdogan probably lacks the self-awareness and sense of Arab history to understand that any attempt to rally Muslims under his banner will be met with suspicion as to his motives, and have the Saudis calling the Israelis for transcripts of his phone calls.

One of the main reasons Israel has survived for so long is because its enemies are more distrustful of one another than they are of Israel itself. Erdogan is probably going to find this out before too long:

Mr Erdogan instead urged a unified response by Muslim nations to Mr Trump’s Jerusalem decision.

“I invite all the countries that value international law and justice to recognise Jerusalem as the occupied capital of the Palestinian state,” he said.

Good luck with that.

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America’s Embassy in Israel

From the BBC:

US President Donald Trump will recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, senior administration officials have said.

He is due to announce the controversial decision in a speech later.

Mr Trump is also expected to approve moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but not for several years.

Nowhere in this article does it mention that in June the US Senate voted on a resolution to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital which passed by 90-0. To do so would detract from the narrative that Trump is making rash, unilateral decisions which bring the world closer to war.

Israel welcomes the changes but the Palestinians and Arab leaders have warned they will jeopardise any Middle East peace process.

Note they don’t specify which Middle East peace process would be jeopardised, presumably because none exists.

Successive presidents have signed waivers to get round the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which mandates moving the embassy.

Oh. So basically Trump is the first President to actually uphold a law that was passed by Congress over 20 years ago. This is a bad thing, apparently.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud told Mr Trump the relocation of the embassy or recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims, all over the world”

Could it be that, having listened to Muslims all over the world spending the first year of his presidency branding him an enemy of Islam, Trump isn’t really interested in what they think at this juncture?

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned of “the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world”

Yeah, that might have worked ten or twenty years ago, but it’s now worn so thin you can wear it as a mask and still watch TV.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya called for a “day of rage” this Friday and said “Palestinian people everywhere [would] not allow this conspiracy to pass”

Business as usual, then.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country could sever ties with Israel

I doubt there are many in Israel counting on ties with Turkey since Erdogan’s rise to power.

France, the European Union and the Arab League have also expressed concern.

The Arab League? We have proxy wars raging in Syria and Yemen, Qatar and Saudi Arabia at each other’s throats, Iran and Turkey sending troops to prop up Arab governments, Libya overrun by jihadists and Egypt heading in the same direction. I didn’t even realise the Arab League still existed, but the minutes of their AGM must make interesting reading.

By recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital President Trump is fulfilling a campaign promise. There is no other obvious reason he is doing this now.

Fulfilling campaign promises, enacting Senate resolutions, upholding the law as passed by Congress? Is there nobody who can save us from this monster?!

Administration officials said he would simply be acknowledging reality

A rare trait among modern politicians.

Jordan and Saudi Arabia are custodians of Islam’s holy sites and have issued strong warnings that this move could inflame the Muslim world.

Okay, we’ll add it to the list.

It sounds like the Palestinians will get nothing.

Except for the four or five hundred million dollars per year the US sends them, of course.

Perhaps there is a wider strategy at work but it looks like a workaround so the president can satisfy his pro-Israel voters.

And comply with the Senate, Congress, and the law in a manner that his predecessors refused to.

In other news:

The BBC is to launch a new scheme to help young people identify real news and filter out fake or false information.

They’re perfectly placed to do it.

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Time to Apologise

The people who make up ISIS are not entirely stupid:

Isis-affiliated fighters “apologised” after launching an attack on Israeli soldiers, the country’s former defence minister has claimed.

Moshe Ya’alon was reportedly referring to an incident when a group linked to Isis in the Syrian Golan Heights exchanged fire with Israeli forces last November.

“There was one case recently where Daesh [Isis] opened fire and apologised,” Mr Ya’alon said.

That’s probably sensible, yes. The scene was captured in cartoon form below:

This was interesting, too:

According to the first Western journalists, who have entered Isis’ territories and survived, Israel is the only country in the world the Islamic group fears because it believes its army is too strong to face.

And the reason Israel ensures it has a very strong army is precisely because of groups like ISIS and those who think like them.

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Yet More Jihad Fatigue

When the news of yesterday’s attacks in London reached me I was sitting at my desk diligently working on engineering designs which would, if implemented, unquestionably contribute to the betterment of mankind. The contrast between my selfless efforts and the mindless destruction of human life in Westminster could not have been more stark, and as one of the few Brits in the office I believed it was my duty to make every discussion thereafter about me and how I felt.

My first thoughts went out to those whose job it is to respond to such incidents, the people on whom we rely to bring order to the chaos, provide comfort where it is needed, and return things to normal. I am referring, of course, to those responsible for switching the lighting schemes on global landmarks into displays of meaningless solidarity. It was but a simple task to light up the Sydney opera house in the tricolor of France, or the Brandenburg gate in the red, black, and yellow of the Belgian flag. But what to do when an Islamist massacre happens in the UK?

A solution came from an expected source: Israel. Since its formation Israel has been plagued with terror attacks and hence is far better prepared to respond to them than perhaps any other nation. It was therefore unsurprising that within hours of the attack, the town hall in Tel Aviv had been transformed thusly:

Seeing this was triggering for me, though. It reminded me of the early 1990s and playing Wolfenstein 3D which would go all pixellated if you ran too close to something, like a Swastika or British flag, and this was during the time of the IRA mainland bombing campaigns and painful memories came flooding back. So although the Israelis meant well, this really didn’t help much and I might have fucked up a crucial element of my engineering calculations.

Besides, nobody is interested in how Israelis respond to terror attacks, even if their methods are strikingly effective. By which I mean air strikes on those believed responsible, of course. No, this attack on the UK required a European response, especially given the motivation of the terrorist might well turn out to be the grim realities of Brexit. At this stage, we just don’t know. So just as Prime Minister Manuel Valls said “times have changed, and we should learn to live with terrorism”, it was once again the French who provided much-needed leadership in these difficult times:

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced Wednesday evening local time that the city’s most famous landmark would go dark in solidarity with those killed and injured near the British Parliament building earlier in the day.

Given that I live in Paris I found this doubly touching, so much so that I touched a female colleague in a clumsy attempt at solidarity. I now have to report to HR this morning. However, and while I do not wish to disparage the brave efforts of those running the Eiffel Tower lighting display for one second, the whole affair does raise some worrying questions.

For instance, is turning off lights really the same as displaying the national colours? Why, given how commonplace these attacks are becoming in Europe, were lighting systems not upgraded to cope with all national flags? If the Israelis can manage it, why can’t we? Surely it can’t be a matter of cost? We were perhaps fortunate that this time it was just London. A friend back in the UK overheard a worried-looking policeman say to his colleague “What if it had been in Cardiff?” One can only imagine. I can only hope and pray that no such attack takes place in Croatia, Slovakia, or even Portugal but if it does I further hope and pray that the appropriate authorities will be ready this time.

Having been calmed down somewhat by the prompt actions of the Paris mayor, my next concern was perhaps equally unsettling: what cutesy image can I put on my Facebook profile to show that I care? I waited and waited for a graphic artist to come up with Cutesy Image of the Massacre™ for this particular event but none came, and I was feeling completely helpless. I even asked one of my more talented colleagues to design one for me as visions of cashing in big-time flashed before my eyes, but his initial idea of a teddy bear in a bobby’s uniform left me cold, especially when I saw it was carrying its own severed head. Perhaps I should have asked somebody other than Abdul. Fortunately, the stoic Londoners shrugged off adversity as they always do and came through with this:

I felt better immediately, although if I’m honest I wasn’t afraid before: I’m in Paris after all, miles from Westminster. I wasn’t even afraid when Islamist nutters were on one of their rampages around these parts because by the time I heard about them everyone was already dead and I was still alive and well. So I wasn’t afraid. Perhaps I ought to have been angry, but alas these days I just feel so weary. I spoke to a doctor and he said it was simply a case of Jihad Fatigue. There’s been a lot of it going around lately, and my symptoms were so far gone that when people mentioned the one year anniversary of the massacre in Brussels, I’d completely forgotten it had taken place.

The words of Manuel Valls quoted above, which were echoed by London’s mayor Sadiq Khan last September when he said terrorist attacks were simply “part and parcel of living in a big city”, were absolutely right. Random people being murdered by Islamic terrorists is something we’re going to have to get used to, because the leadership isn’t interested in doing anything about it and the majority of citizens are not interested in electing leaders who are. For my part, I intend to sell everything I own and invest the proceeds into the suppliers of high-resolution, large scale lighting equipment. The world is gonna need more of them.

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Diversity as Understood by Manchester University

Joe Blow in the comments under my post on the decline of Manchester University points me towards this post at Harry’s place:

It’s a shame Manchester Uni decided to adopt a policy of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions. I guess now they’ll be off the internet and their students will stop using their Apple Macs and mobiles.

Ah yes, the completely non-racist Manchester Students’ Union that embraces diversity – unless you’re Jewish:

On the night, Jewish students who argued against the motion were made to feel as if their concerns about their potential marginalisation were not being heard. Despite offering alternatives that included creating a discussion forum to engage with the Israeli-Palestinian debate, many on the Senate believed that a targeted BDS tactic was more constructive than any form of engagement.

Criticism of Israel and its policies is not in itself antisemitic, and there is plenty to criticise.  However, when an individual, group, or organisation singles out Israel or Israelis for particular criticism or treatment, or makes opposition to Israel its raison d’être, it is fair to ask what is the driving force behind it.

For example, if somebody says they believe Israel ought not to exist, it is perfectly legitimate to ask whether they believe any of the other 193 United Nations Member States should also not exist.  If the answer is no, as it always is, then one is entitled to draw one’s own conclusions as to why the only country in the world whose existence is forever questioned just so happens to be Jewish.  Similarly, if a university decides to boycott visiting academics from Israel and nowhere else, one may be forgiven for thinking the reasons behind it are rather simple.

Critics of Israel could also avoid charges of antisemitism if they were not so often sharing platforms with openly antisemitic people and their communications didn’t read as though they’d been copied chapter and verse from a Hamas press release.

Those behind the BDS movement, and by association The University of Manchester itself, might claim they are not motivated by hatred of Jews, but the rest of us are free to draw our own conclusions.  It is yet another reason for me to distance myself from my alma mater and to chuck the begging letters in the bin.

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A Fascinating Tale of Revenge

For no other reason than sheer coincidence, during my last week in Sakhalin I happened to watch three films all sharing a common theme:  Defiance, Inglorious Basterds, and The Reader. The common theme is, of course, the Nazi persecution of the Jews in Europe with each film dealing, albeit in vastly different ways, with the issue of retribution for the crimes committed.  This subject reminded me of a fascinating tale of revenge which is told in Bernard Fall’s excellent book, Street Without Joy, an account of the French debacle in Indochina.  I am surprised that nobody thus far has deemed this story worthy of making into a film.  I have reproduced the relevant section of Fall’s book below (pages 286-290).

Excerpt:

A last chapter of the of the Foreign Legion’s colorful history in Asia was written, in, of all places, the drab surroundings of an Israeli Navy court-martial in May 1958.

The defendent was a 25-year old man, in the neat white uniform of the Israeli enlisted seaman.  Eliahu Itzkovitz was charged with desertion from the Israeli Navy, but this case was not an ordinary one, for he had deserted from a peacetime hitch in Haifa to a twenty-seven months ordeal with the Foreign Legion in Indochina.

Eliahu had grown up in a small town in eastern Rumania when the country threw in its lot with the Nazis at the beginning of World War II.  Soon, the Rumanian Conductorul (the “Leader”) Antonescu began to emulate all the tactics of the Nazis, his own version of the Brownshirts calling itself the “Iron Guard”  and practising mass murder on a large scale.  In fact, according to the British writer Edward Crankshaw in his book Gestapo, they “offended the Germans on the spot by not troubling to bury their victims; and they offended the R.H.S.A. [the administrative section of the Nazi police in charge of mass exterminations] by their failure to keep proper records and by their uncontrolled looting.”

The Itzkovitz family did not escape the collective fate of the Rumanian Jews.  Eliahu and his parents and three brothers were sent to a concentration camp, no better and no worse than most Eastern European camps; one lived a few days to a few weeks and died from a wide variety of causes, mostly beating and shooting.  Rumanian camps were not as well equipped as their German models, the “death factories” of Auschwitz and Treblinka with their sophisticated gas chambers.  Again, according to Crankshaw, “the Rumanians showed a great aptitude  for mass murder and conducted their own massacres in Odessa and elsewhere,” and the Itzkovitz family paid its price – within a short time, only Eliahu, the youngest boy, survived.

But he had seen his family die, and he had remembered who killed it.  It had been one particular brute, not the coldly efficient SS-type but a Rumanian from a town not too far away from his own home town and who enjoyed his new job.  And Eliahu swore that he would kill the man, if it took all his life to do it.  More than anything else, it was probably that hatred that kept him alive; he was a skeleton but a living one when the Russians liberated him in 1944.  Eliahu then began his patient search from town to town.  Of course, Stanescu (or whatever name the brute had assumed in the meantime) had not returned to his hometown for good reasons, but Eliahu found his son there and took his first revenge; he stabbed the son with a butcher knife and in 1947, a Rumanian People’s Court sentenced him to five years in a reformatory for juveniles.

Eliahu served his time but did not forget.  His family’s murderer was still at large and he had sworn to kill him.  In 1952, he was finally released and given permission by Communist authorities to emigrate to Israel, where he was drafted into the Israeli army in 1953 and assigned to the paratroops.  Training was rigorous in the sun-drenched barracks and stubby fields south of Rehovoth, and thoughts of revenge had become all but a dim memory.  There was a new life to be lived here, among the people from all corners of the world who still streamed in and who, from Germans, Poles, Indians, Yemenites, or Rumanians, became Israelis.  To be sure, Eliahu still met some of his Rumanian friends and talk often rotated back to the “old country”, to the war and the horrors of the persecution.  Camps and torturers were listed matter-of-factly, like particularly tough schools or demanding teachers, and Stanescu came up quite naturally.

“That s.o.b. made it.  He got out in time before the Russians could get him,” said a recent arrival, “then he fled to West Germany and tried to register as a D.P. but they got wise to him and before we could report him, he was gone again.”

Eliahu’s heart beat had stopped for an instant, and when it resumed its normal rhythm, he had shaken off the torpor of peacetime army life.  The hunt was on again.

“Do you know where Stanescu went then? Do you have any idea at all?”

“Well – somebody said that he had gone to Offenburg in the French Zone, where they recruit people for the French Foreign Legion, and that he enlisted for service in Indochina.  The French are fighting there, you know.”

On the next day, Eliahu’s mind was made up.  He reported to his commanding officer and applied for a transfer to the Israeli Navy; he liked the sea, had learned something about it while in Rumania, which borders the Black Sea, and would be happier aboard ship than as a paratrooper.  A few days later, the request was granted and Eliahu was on his way to the small force of Israeli corvettes and destroyers based in Haifa.  A few months later, the opportunity he had been waiting for came true; his ship was assigned to go to Italy to pick up equipment.

In Genoa, Seaman Itzkovitz applied for shore leave and simply walked off the ship; took a train to Bordighera and crossed over to Menton, France, without the slightest difficulty.  Three days later, Eliahu had signed his enlistment papers in Marseilles and was en route to Sidi-bel-Abbès, Algeria, the headquarters and boot camp of the Foreign Legion, and again three months later, he was aboard the s/s Pasteur on his way to Indochina.

Once in the Foreign Legion, Stanescu’s trail was not hard to pick up.  While no unit was made up of any single nationality, each unit would have its little groups and informal clans acording to language or nation of origin.  It took patience, but in early 1954, he had located his quarry in the 3d Foreign Legion Infantry.  The last step was the easiest; the Foreign Legion generally did not object if a man requested a transfer in order to be with his friends, and Eliahu’s request to be transferred to Stanescu’s battalion came through in a perfectly routine fashion.  When Eliahu saw Stanescu again after ten years, he felt no particular wave of hatred, as he had somehow expected.  After having spent ten years imagining the moment of meeting the killer of his family eye to eye, the materialization of that moment could only be an anti-climax.  Stanescu had barely changed; he had perhaps thinned down a bit in the Legion; as for Eliahu, he had been a frightened boy of thirteen and was now a trapping young man, bronzed from his two years of training with the Israeli paratroopes, the Navy and the French Foreign Legion.

There was nothing left to do for Eliahu but to arrange a suitable occasion for the “execution;” for in his eyes the murder of Stanescu would be an execution.  Stanescu (his name was, of course, no longer that) had become a corporal, and led his squad competently.  The new arrival also turned out to be a competent soldier, a bit taciturn perhaps, but good.  In fact, he was perhaps better trained than the run of the mill that came out of “Bel-Abbès” these days.  He was a good man to have along on a patrol.

And it was on a patrol that Stanescu met his fate, in one of the last desperate battles along Road 18, between Bac-Ninh and Seven Pagodas.  He and Eliahu had gone on a reconnaissance into the bushes on the side of the road, when the Viet-Minh opened fire from one hundred yards away.  Both men slumped down into the mud.  There was no cause for fear; the rest of the squad was close by on the road and would cover their retreat.  Eliahu was a few paces to the side and behind Stanescu.

“Stanescu!” he called out.

Stanescu turned around and stared at Eliahu, and Eliahu continued in Rumanian:

“You are Stanescu, aren’t you?”

The man, the chest of his uniform black from the mud in which he had been lying, looked at Eliahu more in surprise than in fear.  For all he knew, Eliahu might have been a friend of his son, a kid from the neighbourhood back home in Chisnau.

“Yes, but…”

“Stanescu,” said Eliahu in a perfectly even voice, “I’m one of the Jews from Chisnau,” and emptied the clip of his MAT-49 tommy gun into the man’s chest.  He dragged the body back to the road: a Legionnaire never left a comrade behind.

“Tough luck,” said one of the men of the platoon sympathetically.  “He was a Rumanian just like you, wasn’t he?”

“Yes,” said Eliahu, “just like me.”

The search had ended and the deed was done.  Eliahu was now at peace with himself and the world.  He served out his time with the Legion, received his papers certifying that “he had served with Honor and Fidelity” and mustered out in France.  There was nothing left for him to do but to go home to Israel.  The Israeli Armed Forces attachè in France at first refused to believe the incredible story, but the facts were soon verified with the French authorities and a few weeks later Eliahu was on his way to Israel.  At Haifa, two Israeli M.P.’s, perfect copies of their British models with their glistening white canvas belts and pistol holsters, took charge of him and soon the gates of Haifa military prison closed behind him.

The three Israeli Navy judges rose.  Seaman Itzkovitz stood stiffly at attention as the presiding judge read out the judgement.

“… and in view of the circumstances of the case, a Court of the State of Israel cannot bring itself to impose a heavy sentence. … One year’s imprisonment … ”

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Human Shields Exposed, Rights Violated

I’ve written before about the bizarre situations which pass for reality in Middle Eastern affairs which concern Israel.  An article from the BBC does little to dispel my view that visitors to the region must be forced to abandon all logic and common sense at customs when they enter:

Large numbers of Palestinians have converged on a home in Gaza belonging to a senior member of the ruling Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The move follows reports the Israeli air force was about to attack it, but there has been no confirmation of this.

Nothing unusual about this: using civilians as human shields has been a weapon in the Palestinians’ armoury for years.  However, Louise Arbour, the UN high commissioner for human rights who was visiting a different town in Gaza, had this to say:

“The violations of human rights in the Palestinian territories are intolerable.  I think it’s clear that civilians are tremendously exposed.”

Well, yes.  They are tremendously exposed.  But perhaps civilians in the Palestinian territories could reduce this exposure somewhat by not deliberately gathering around the target of a proposed airstrike.

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An Emirati’s Thoughts

In contrast to the usual mountains of fuckwittery being spouted on the UAE blogs regarding the current Israel-Lebanon conflict, Emirati at An Emirati’s Thoughts has come up with a sensible suggestion of what Israel’s response should have been to the kidnapping of its soldiers by Hezbollah.  There have been very few sensible suggestions of what Israel’s reaction should have been, most advocating that Israel either does nothing or responds with maximum force depending on who you are supporting, and Emirati’s offering – although possibly unworkable in practice – at least addresses the issue calmly and sensibly.  Under the circumstances this is commendable, and I reproduce his proposal in full below.

1.  Protract this conflict to the South of Lebanon. Strike at Infrastructure in the South of Lebanon, all roads that lead to the Northern Parts of Lebanon. Use a ground offensive to push up till the 2000 pre-handover borders. Dont strike at all of Lebanon, because that will not allow you to later play off the Lebanese Government and people against the Hizb. Make Southern Lebanon Uninhabitable forcing the Civilians there to Relocate to other Areas in Lebanon, thus reducing the Amount of Collateral Damage.

2.  Carry out a Series of Special Forces Raids against Hizbollah Targets, Kidnapping and Interrogating them for Information on Positions of Hezbollah forces and Launchers. With Sufficient SO raids, you could capture and parade Hizbollah Members on Television. You could demoralize Hezbollah and Pro Hezbollah Lebanese into accepting an Inevitability. Guerilla Attacks are deeply Demoralizing and allow you to pull off operations with Minimum Loss of Civilian Life.

3.  Jam All Satellite Communications into Lebanon. No Satellite Television, No Cellular Phones. Neutralize any regional stations which broadcast pro Hezbollah Material by taking out their Antennas. In the meantime, Broadcast your own Materal Showing the IDF attacking Hezb Units.

4.  Leave Beirut and its airport Alone. With something to lose, the Lebanese Government will be more inclined to negotiate and cooperate. Restrict Travel into and From Lebanon. The Israeli Airforce will escort any plane bound to Beirut Airport. Any planes bound to Beirut must Stop at Cairo International, Amman International, or an Airport in Cyprus for an Inspection by UN Observers. Get Lebanon caught up in a non lethal beauraucracy in order to be able to put pressure on it without killing people.

5.  Swiftly Involve the United Nations and the rest of the World in this mess to put pressure on the Lebanese Government. Ask the US to provide Economic Incentives to Syria for non Intervention and Possible Cooperation. Promise to Withdraw from Entire South Lebanon Including Sheba Farms if Hezbollah is Disbanded and Replaced by Regular Lebanese Military Units.

6.  If Hezbollah Proves Undisbandable by politics, have Lebanese Government Request American Military Assistance in Neutralizing Hizbollah Threat or threaten to chase Hezbollah all the Way to the Beqaa Valley. The US will beef up Lebanese Military Units with Advisors, Training and Equipment. Lebanon is not Another Afghanistan. A concerted effort by US and Lebanese forces could wipe out the Hezb in a matter of weeks.

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Modern Battlefield Protocol: Stay, Observe, Die

This battle that is raging in Lebanon is at times taking on the appearance of a parody of warfare.  Take for example the bombing of the UN outpost, as reported by the BBC:

UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon contacted Israeli troops 10 times before an Israeli bomb killed four of them, an initial UN report says.

The UN report says each time the UN contacted Israeli forces, they were assured the firing would stop.

This could have been lifted straight from the pages of Catch-22.  Here we have an all-out war between a well equipped and agressive army and a well armed and ruthless militia, and in the middle we have what their commanders are laughably calling peacekeepers making observations.

When in the history of warfare has any neutral bystander deliberately stayed put in no-man’s land when two armies clash in a pitched battle, much less for the purposes of keeping the peace some 12 days after hostilities began?  Of all the numerous examples of battlefield idiocy that history keeps for us, this must surely rank up there with the practice of marching slowly in a straight line towards massed cannon.

And when did it become acceptable practice for a neutral observer to telephone one of the battlefield commanders and ask him to cease fire?  The Israeli commander who took the request must have thought his UN interlocutor had taken leave of his senses.  Can you imagine Wellington at Waterloo receiving a note asking him to lay off the Frenchies for a while because some dickheads in the middle were getting hit with grapeshot?  I mean, take this for example:

A senior Irish soldier working for the UN forces had warned the Israelis six times that their bombardment was endangering the lives of UN staff, Ireland’s foreign ministry said.

It’s no wonder the Irish practice strict neutrality if that’s the kind of soldier they are putting into the field.  Does he not realise that by keeping his staff in situ during a bombardment he is endangering their lives?  Any soldier worth his salt who is not involved in the battle would have high-tailed it out of there after seeing his first request go unheeded by the Israelis, and this chap should have done the same.  But he kept them there even though he had asked no less than six times and each time his plea had been ignored!  Did our hero not get an inkling after the second or third request that the bombardment was going to continue and he really should get his men the fuck out of there?

Jeez, it’s no wonder foreigners’ armies send their best to Sandhurst for training.  If standing around in the middle of a battlefield waiting to get hit is now considered sensible military practice, I’m mighty glad I’m not a conscript in their army.

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Russia to fund Hamas

Well done, Russia!  Oh, how very well done.

Russia has said it will grant the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority urgent financial aid, in opposition to the policy of the EU and the US.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the pledge to authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a telephone call, Moscow said.

Marvellous.  Just as the US and EU, for once agreeing on something, looked as though they were standing firm on not supplying aid to a Hamas government until it recognises the right of Jews to live in the Middle East, Russia throws a lifeline to Islamic terrorists.  Brilliant.

Firstly, a clarification.  The US and EU are right to deny aid to Hamas, and they have every right to.  Contrary to the bleating of idiots like Patrick Seale in the Gulf News that not funding Hamas is equal to blackmail and dismissal of the democratic process, the US and EU have fully recognised that the Palestinians have elected their government of choice and have made no effort to interfere in that choice.  However, electing the government of your choice does not come with a right to have that government’s policies accepted and funded wholesale by anybody outside of the electorate.  If the Middle East is going to adopt democracy as a workable model of government, the people need to understand that democracy entitles you only to be governed by your party of choice for a limited period, and nothing more.  It does not entitle you to foreign aid and endorsement of party politics.  And until Hamas accepts the right of Israel to exist, enlightened liberal democracies should exercise their right to stop funding their activities.

Which brings us on to Russia.  For the last few years, much of Russia’s foreign policy has been a two step process:

1)  See what the US is doing.

2)  Do the opposite.

If this is Russia’s way of gaining friends and influence around the world, it will clearly work.  But it will come at a price, as the USA has found following several decades of propping up dodgy dictatorships and funding terrorists in an effort to contain Communism.  It will eventually come right around and bite Russia on the arse.  But for now, it will win plenty of friends and influence in the Middle East.  Granting aid to Hamas relieves the Arab states of having to dip into their own pockets to fund what could well become a threat to their own positions, but allows them to look on as Israel continues to be attacked.  It will open the door to Russia to supply some juicy arms contracts over the next few years, and it will turn Muslims’ attention away from Russia’s brutal war against the Chechens (they hope).  It also annoys the US and make them look like the bad guys.  All of this at a cost to Russia of a few million dollars, which of course they don’t need anyway, and a few dead Jews on their conscience.  Which has never been a problem before, I think we can all agree.

So what happens now?  A prediction:  the Gulf News will write a gushing article on Russia and how they are supporting the democratic process, and how they are so strong and brave in the face of Israeli pressure.  The US will be denounced loudly.  The UK’s Guardian and Independent will utter not a peep about the irony of having Russia supporting an Islamic terrorist organisation at the same time it is hosting the forthcoming G8 summit, nor will they mention the blindingly opportunistic stance Russia is taking on this issue, and the obvious reasons for it: flogging weapons and other kit to dodgy regimes.  The articles concerned will be highlighting with smug satisfaction the frustration that the US now feels with the Russians, knowing that there’s nothing they can do about it.

And there isn’t much which can be done.  Or maybe Israel should start funding “freedom fighters” in Chechnya and Dagestan, so they can carry out a few more Beslans?  Maybe then Russia will realise the price attached to funding terrorist organisations.

UPDATE

Actually, there is one possibility which I have overlooked.  Maybe Russia is agreeing to fund Hamas in order to give it more elbow room with which to pitch in with the US and EU against Iran.  Perhaps Russia is playing a fairly clever game here, working its way into a position whereby it can pressure Iran without appearing to be anti-Islamic or too pro-American.  Time will tell. 

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