Money keeps flowing to the Mullahs as their Israel hatred heats up.

The website Iran Front Page proudly announces: “The first edition of International Hourglass Festival, dedicated to anti-Israel art and media productions, will be held in the Iranian capital Tehran in April.”

Last week a press conference on the festival was held in Tehran. During it Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, identified as “the Secretary-General of the International Conference on Supporting Palestinian Intifada and an international advisor to Iran’s Parliament Speaker,” explained that “the ‘Hourglass Festival’ is a symbol of the imminent collapse of the Zionist regime of Israel, as predicted by the Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.”

Amir-Abdollahian further explained that he “cannot publicize the Islamic Republic’s plan to realize the Leader’s prediction that the Israeli regime will collapse within 25 years, but it will definitely happen.”

What will the Hourglass Festival be like? Its executive secretary, Mahdi Qomi, offers a preview, saying it “will be held in 11 sections”:

Audio-visual productions, graphic design (poster, cartoons, etc.), mobile apps, mobile and web-based games, social media and websites, animation, motion-graphics, start-ups are among the fields in which the festival accepts entries.

The festival will accept entries until April 21, when all the submitted works will be put on display to the public….

The organizers will work with 2,400 anti-Israel NGOs in Europe, North America, Latin America, and Eastern Asia to promote the festival across the world, Qomi said.

The website for the festival itself features a disappearing Star of David. It declares that “Israel Will Not Exist in 25 Years: if the resistance fron [sic] stands firm, the enemy cannot do a damn thing,” while offering instructions for submissions and much else.

Seemingly this is news; it’s one UN member-state not only calling for the destruction of another UN member-state but holding an international festival devoted to that goal. Yet so far it is almost solely some Israeli and pro-Israeli websites that have reported the development.

This is hardly, of course, the first time Iranian leaders and officials have openly called for Israel’s eradication. Apparently, if you do it enough it becomes humdrum and acceptable—even with the added twist of an international effort, in tandem with “2,400 NGOS,” to instill the notion that the Jewish state needs to be wiped off the face of the earth.

Meanwhile West European countries are in a state of anxiety over President Trump’s warning that unless the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA, is seriously modified, he will withdraw from the deal and reinstate U.S. sanctions. These countries regard Iran—ayatollah regime and all—as an invaluable business partner to be protected at all costs.

As the Financial Times reported last October:

European countries are battling to save commercial ties with Iran as part of a wider effort to stop the US upending the landmark deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear programme. [That includes] contingency plans to protect companies such as Airbus, Total, Siemens and Peugeot, which have all struck deals in Iran….

[Since the JCPOA] trade  between Iran and the EU, which was Tehran’s top trading partner before broad economic sanctions were imposed in 2010, has all but doubled annually to almost €10bn for the first half of [2017]….

It turns out Germany is one of the countries reaping a bonanza from this renewed trade. In the first nine months of 2017 “Germany sold 2.358 billion euros worth of goods ($2.846 billion) to Iran,” while it “imported just $328 million worth of goods from Iran”—a huge trade surplus in Germany’s favor. And “German exports to Iran…remain on a steep upward curve.”

The article—posted on the Deutsche Welle site—complains that “The Trump Administration has taken a strident anti-Iranian tone, as have the political establishments of Israel and the Gulf Arab countries.” That is, even though Iran sponsors subversion and terror against Israel and Gulf Arab countries and threatens their destruction, strident tones are something to avoid when German business is at stake.

At the Munich Security Conference in February, U.S. national security adviser H. R. McMaster and Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir raised the issue that European funds are flowing to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Revolutionary Guard is the main engine of Iranian subversion and terror and is believed to control about a third of Iran’s economy.

Yet CNBC reports that Iran’s key business partners Germany, France, and the UK keep fighting the good fight for European multinationals Airbus, Siemens, Peugeot, and Total, all of which have “struck major deals in the country worth billions.”

When business is that good, it would be naïve in the extreme to think that any further Iranian outrage—even an innovation like the International Hourglass Festival—could swing the Euros toward Trump’s stance on reining in Iran.

Instead it can be confidently predicted that the festival in April will go forward and most of the international community will keep trading with Iran and treating it as a respectable, legitimate country. Meanwhile Israel’s government will be seen as “too right-wing.”

 Originally Published on FrontPageMag.


Even an anti-Israeli NGO is appalled.

Hamas is trying to project a new image. At a news conference in Doha, Qatar, on Monday, May 1, it announced a purportedly moderate new document—without indicating in any way that it was abrogating its notoriously anti-Semitic 1988 charter.

The New York Times—at least on the face of it—quickly took the bait. That day its lead headline read: “Hamas Tempers Extreme Stances in Bid for Power”—later revised to “In Palestinian Power Struggle, Hamas Moderates Talk on Israel.”

The article quotes Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum: “The document gives us a chance to connect with the outside world…. We are a pragmatic and civilized movement….”

Yet, elsewhere in the report, even the Times is unable to get too enthused about the new “Document of General Principles and Policies.”

The Times notes that it “reiterates the Hamas leadership’s view that it is open to a Palestinian state along the borders established after the 1967 war, though it does not renounce future claims to Palestinian rule over what is now Israel.” Or in the document’s more emphatic words:

Palestine…extends from the River Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean in the west…the establishment of the Zionist entity therein do[es] not annul the right of the Palestinian people to their entire land and do[es] not entrench any rights therein for the usurping Zionist entity.

The Times also notes gingerly that the document “does not renounce violence.” Or as the document puts it:

The liberation of Palestine is the duty of the Palestinian people in particular and the duty of the Arab and Islamic Ummah in general…. Resisting the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and by international norms and laws.

And the Times says the new document “specifically weakens language from [the] 1988 charter proclaiming Jews as enemies and comparing their views to Nazism.” The new document, however, says: “Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine.”

In other words, no problem with the Jews, as long as their state is destroyed.

And finally, the Times—which, despite all these bows to reality, gave the Doha press conference top billing as if it heralded a major change—acknowledges what all experts confirm: that the new document “does not replace the original charter,” which remains fully in force.

Why did Hamas makes this bid for a better image at this time? The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff notes that Hamas is in financial trouble:

Gulf states are closing the funding taps one by one and income from inside Gaza is dropping.

It is for this reason that the need arose to present a “friendlier face” to the world via this document of principles.

That and the intra-Palestinian struggle for power and influence; with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas set, at that time, to meet with President Trump in Washington on Wednesday, Hamas wanted to keep itself in the public eye and try to boost its respectability.

In what appears to be bad timing for the group, however, on Tuesday Human Rights Watch released a report that puts the “pragmatic and civilized movement” in a very negative light.

Significantly, Human Rights Watch is no friend of Israel. As NGO Monitor notes, HRW exhibits “a deep-seated ideological bias against Israel,” regularly accuses it of war crimes, calls for the boycott of Israeli communities in the West Bank, and much else.

In “2 Israelis Who Entered Gaza Held Incommunicado,” however, even HRW is unsparing in its criticism of Hamas.

The two Israelis are Avraham Mangistu, of Ethiopian Jewish background, and Hisham al-Sayed, of Muslim Bedouin background. Mangistu is believed to have wandered into Gaza in September 2014, Sayed in April 2015.

Both men, HRW notes, have “serious mental health conditions”;

Sayed was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and Mangistu spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

And while Hamas claims the men are soldiers, HRW found that they “were not combatants or affiliated with the Israeli government when they entered Gaza.” Mangistu was found unfit to serve, and Sayed, also found unfit, volunteered for service but was discharged after three months.

But none of that has availed the two unfortunate men, who have been held incommunicado since straying into Gaza. There have been no visits from rights groups, no contacts with their families, no indications about their condition.

Hamas’s “price”—just for information about the men—would be Israel’s release of 54 Hamas security prisoners.

Hamas is also holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who were killed in the 2014 Gaza War; on April 20 it released a “ghoulish” video taunting their parents.

Notwithstanding the ever so slightly spruced-up prose of its new document, it is, of course, the same Hamas as always—existing at the lowest depth of human depravity while claiming divine sanction for all its actions.

It would be nice to say the opposing Palestinian Authority/Fatah stream of the Palestinians is a lot better; but that is a different subject.

Originally published in FrontPageMag.


At Wednesday’s White House press conference for President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, both leaders clearly had a lot on their minds—in addition to the matters at hand.

For Trump it was, of course, the Flynn imbroglio. For Netanyahu there were two things. One involves unfortunate, inane investigations to which he’s being subjected in Israel, which could lead to an indictment. One investigation concerns alleged illicit receipt of gifts—cigars and champagne; the other concerns talks he held with a newspaper publisher—which mentioned possible shady deals that were never, however, acted upon.

In addition, Netanyahu is under heavy pressure from the right wing of his coalition—to renounce the two-state solution, to build settlements. At the press conference Netanyahu, in particular, sounded flustered and awkward at times, glancing for succor at his script, speaking without his usual assurance and aplomb.

On substance the two leaders’ words, too, raised problems at times.

The Palestinian issue appears, unfortunately, to have returned to center stage. It’s unfortunate because it remains an issue no more amenable to a solution that at any time in the past.

“The United States,” Trump told the reporters, “will encourage a peace, and really a great peace deal.” He also said, “I think the Palestinians have to get rid of some of that hate they’re taught from a very young age. They have to acknowledge Israel. They have to do that.”

The problem is that the Palestinians have “had to” do those things—stop hating; acknowledge the legitimacy of a Jewish political entity—since the Palestinian issue first arose almost a century ago.

They have “had to,” but are no closer to doing so today than they were in the 1920s; meanwhile the remedy for an entire generation raised in hate—a reality that Netanyahu, in his flustered way, tried to emphasize—is no closer to being found by any of the putative wizards in the West.

Indeed, neither the president nor the prime minister mentioned Gaza—where a leader who is radical even by Hamas standards has taken the helm; as usual, it was not explained how a solution could be found when the Palestinians west of the Jordan are themselves divided into two mutually antagonistic entities. Trump and Netanyahu’s words about a “regional deal” on the Palestinian issue, involving Arab states along with Israel, likewise fail to take into account intractable Palestinian reality.

Instead, Trump engaged in vague talk of “two states” and “one state,” not explaining what a “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian issue would be—Israel granting citizenship to at least two million mostly intensely hostile Arabs?—while Netanyahu, desperate to avoid the term “two states,” reiterated his insistence on Israeli security control and Palestinian recognition of Israel, but mainly appeared terrified of riling his right-wing critics at home.

On a matter vastly more important than the Palestinian issue, Trump’s words—“My administration has already imposed new sanctions on Iran, and I will do more to prevent Iran from ever developing—I mean ever—a nuclear weapon”—were more encouraging to Israeli ears.

The words appeared to jibe with a report that the Trump administration is working to create a “NATO-like mutual defense pact” of moderate Arab states that would “share intelligence with Israel and the US to counter the rising threat of Iran.”

Israel’s role, according to an unnamed diplomat, “would likely be intelligence sharing, not training or boots on the ground. They’d provide intelligence and targets. That’s what the Israelis are good at.”

In other words, what sounds like a sophisticated plan—taking regional realities into account—to form a bulwark against Iranian expansionism that threatens to engulf the region in war.

It can be hoped that, in their hours-long powwow after the press conference, the U.S. president and Israeli prime minister focused much more on the Iranian issue, which is incomparably more urgent and can be resolved with determined action, than on the Palestinian issue, which is relatively minor and cannot—for now—be resolved.

If Trump, nonetheless, has delusions of grandeur on the Palestinian issue, expect Netanyahu to play along with his policy. It will be a relatively small price to pay for dealing with the Iranian menace.

Originally Published in FrontPageMag.



The 70-nation conference on the Israeli-Palestinian issue in Paris on Sunday included neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives and was a farce and a fraud—but could have been still worse.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the conference represented the “last twitches of yesterday’s world. Tomorrow’s world will be different—and it is very near.”

It was, of course, one of the reasons the conference was farcical: although Secretary of State John Kerry was in attendance, he was representing an administration that is in its last five days in office, and whose policy of harassing Israel was—among much else—repudiated in the U.S. elections two months ago.

France, the host and convener of the conference, was hardly in a stronger position: the Socialist government of François Hollande is on its last leg and its path, too, is expected to be jettisoned in the upcoming French elections.

Israeli columnist Prof. Eyal Zisser notes that “in the actual Middle East…no one gives France a second thought and no one is taking its peace initiative seriously.” It was, after all, France that led the misguided Western assault on the defanged Qaddafi regime in Libya and reduced that country to jihadist chaos; and it is France that has sat impotently while its former colonies, Lebanon and Syria, have fallen under Hizballah rule in one case and into Hobbesian mayhem in the other.

And as David Harris has pointed out, France’s credentials as an honest broker on the Israeli-Palestinian issue are also less than sterling:

at the World Health Organization General Assembly in May…France voted in favor of a measure that bizarrely singled out Israel by name as the only country in the world accused of undermining “mental, physical and environmental health,” and…France could do no more than abstain at UNESCO in April on a resolution that denied any Jewish (and Christian) link to the holy sites in Jerusalem.

At Sunday’s conference, none of this prompted an ounce of humility on the part of Hollande and Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, or deterred them from drawing the de rigueur moral equivalency between Palestinian terror and Israeli home construction.

If this is what Netanyahu meant by the “last twitches of yesterday’s world”—a world in which the West has been obsessed for decades over Israeli home-building while its errant policies have helped turn the Middle East into crumbling chaos—then one can only hope Netanyahu’s optimism is not misplaced.

Foreign Minister Ayrault, however, went a step further.

It was on Saturday that Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, visiting the Vatican, issued a dire warning against moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying: “Any attempts at legitimizing the illegal Israeli annexation of the city will destroy the prospects of any political process, bury the hopes for a two-state solution, and fuel extremism in our region, as well as worldwide.”

If “fuel extremism in our region, as well as worldwide” sounds like a threat of terrorism, and an effort to get others to intimidate the incoming Trump administration out of transferring the embassy to Israel’s capital—that indeed is what it was.

A few hours later Osama Qawasmeh, a spokesman for Abbas’s Fatah movement, was more graphic, saying that if the embassy is moved “all chances for peace and stability will be lost. The gates of hell will be opened in the region and the world.”

And it was that chorus to which, at Sunday’s conference, the French foreign minister lent his voice, stating that moving the embassy would have “extremely serious consequences…. When you are president of the United States, you cannot take such a stubborn and such a unilateral view on this issue.”

Translation: the “old world” insists that when it comes to Israel, the West’s role is to knuckle under to Arab and Muslim bullying, making Jerusalem the world’s only capital to be devoid of other countries’ embassies. If this “old world” is truly on the way out, it cannot disappear soon enough.

So much for the deeply objectionable side of Sunday’s gathering. The event also yielded some relatively good news.

Israeli officials reportedly welcomed the fact that the conference’s final statement was much less harsh toward Israel than last month’s UN Security Council Resolution 2334, and “credited the efforts of [Israel’s] National Security Council and…Foreign Ministry” for achieving that result.

The officials also welcomed Kerry’s promise in a phone call to Netanyahu that the U.S. would rein in any further Security Council vilification of Israel—a promise to be tested in the administration’s waning days.

Also encouraging is that Britain, under Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government, refused to sign the conference’s final statement, claimed it would merely “harden positions,” and said it had “particular reservations” about the lack of Israeli and Palestinian representatives—in other words, about the fact that the conference was an empty farce.

A new era in which conservative Western administrations, with the U.S. and Britain taking the lead, could treat Israel with diplomatic decency and take a clearer view of the Middle Eastern reality it deals with? Time will tell.

Originally Published in FrontPageMag.



A Paris “peace conference” and a Turtle Bay aftermath.

A week and a half ago President Obama gave the order for the U.S. to abstain on UN Security Council Resolution 2334, thereby—effectively—voting in favor and allowing the resolution to pass.

As I noted, the resolution goes beyond “moral equivalency” by obfuscating Palestinian terror and incitement while branding Jewish life beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines a “flagrant violation under international law” and a “major obstacle…to peace.”

But the administration wasn’t through with Israel. A few days later, with the Middle East aflame from Yemen to Iraq to Syria to Libya to Sudan and Iranian expansionism on the march, Secretary of State Kerry delivered a 75-minute harangue against what he called Israel’s “pernicious policy of settlement construction that is making peace impossible.”

Critics have noted that—in the real world—Israeli construction in settlements under the recent Netanyahu governments has been so modest that it has not affected the Israeli-Palestinian population balance in the West Bank; and that if any and all Israeli presence beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines is “illegal,” then the idea of a “peace process” to settle claims over disputed land appears to be invalidated, since Israel is then nothing but a rapacious thief and the Palestinians its victims seeking redress.

As international-law scholar Eugene Kontorovich notes in the Washington Post:

The…condemnation of any Jewish presence whatsoever in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank is a unique rule invented for Israel. There has never been a prolonged belligerent occupation—from the U.S. occupation of West Berlin to Turkey’s ongoing occupation of Cyprus to Russia’s of Crimea—where the occupying power has blocked its citizens from living in the territory under its control. Moreover, neither the United Nations nor any other international body has ever suggested they must do so. What is being demanded of Israel in its historical homeland has never been demanded of any other state, and never will be. 

The Obama administration’s stepped-up diplomatic and verbal assault on Israel in the last weeks of its tenure has not gone unnoticed, sparking bitter criticism even from Democratic lawmakers and mainstream American Jewish organizations that are far from any right-wing agenda.

But the extent to which the administration listens to such protests, or can be budged from its wholesale endorsement of Palestinian claims regarding the West Bank and Jerusalem, can be gauged from the fact that the Obama-Kerry team has still more in store for Israel.

It’s set to take place in Paris on January 15, under the aegis of the Hollande government, and it’s expected that some 70 countries will be attending.

The ostensible subject: “Middle East peace.” The translation: more invalidation of any and all Israeli claims to land captured from Jordan (not the Palestinians) in a defensive war in 1967, and more support for what—under present circumstances—would almost certainly be a Palestinian terror state in that territory.

American Jewish leaders have demanded that France call off this “ill-conceived, poorly timed and damaging” event, also pointing to “the impending transition to a new US administration, just five days later.”

But according to The Times of Israel, that—the Obama administration’s exploitation of its last days in office to do more harm to Israel—is exactly what Prime Minister Netanyahu is concerned about.

The Times of Israel cites an Israeli news broadcast saying Netanyahu believes the Middle East Quartet—which includes the U.S., UN, Russia, and the EU—“will coordinate positions at the Paris summit, and then return to the Security Council in the very last days of Obama’s presidency to cement these new parameters on Mideast peacemaking.”

“Cement these new parameters” would, of course, mean another Security Council resolution that is ruinous to Israel’s stance in favor of a negotiated settlement, tars it as a rogue state and international outlaw, and gives another major boost to the ongoing international effort to delegitimize and ultimately dismantle the Jewish state.

The Obama administration that came into office calling for “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel and slamming “natural growth” in Israeli communities, will be leaving office having learned nothing about the real sources of Middle Eastern violence and instability, Palestinian intransigence and outright rejection of Israel in any contours, and Israel’s unique nature in its region as a stable, faithfully pro-U.S. democracy seeking a genuine peace that would not merely imperil it.

Instead the administration appears bent on compounding ignorance and incorrigibility by cementing a lasting legacy of shame.

Originally Posted on FrontPageMag.



The news out of Syria this week is, as usual, complex—and seemingly contradictory.

On the one hand, the Russian-Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah alliance appeared to have overcome rebel resistance in Aleppo—a major turning point that would shift the war’s momentum in the alliance’s favor.

On the other hand, Arab and other media reported that on Wednesday the Israeli air force struck a Syrian weapons depot west of Damascus and a weapons convoy headed for Hizballah in Lebanon.

As of Thursday evening there had been no retaliation against Israel, and Israeli analysts generally saw a retaliation as unlikely.

Media outside of Israel have, of course, often reported in the past on Israeli airstrikes—usually against Hizballah-bound weaponry—in Syria.

Israel’s policy has been to keep mum, neither denying nor confirming the reports. Last April, though, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that Israel had carried out “dozens” of strikes in Syria against “game-changing weaponry” for Hizballah.

It’s no secret that, since the 2006 war between Israel and Hizballah in Lebanon, Hizballah has massively rearmed and now harbors tens of thousands of missiles. But Israel regards some kinds of weapons—precision rockets, advanced antiship and antiaircraft systems—as out of bounds for the terror group.

What has changed in the Syrian arena, though, is that late last year Russia deployed its powerful S-400 radar and antiaircraft system there. It covers Syria, Lebanon, and much of Israel and can track Israel’s northern airspace.

Since then there have been far fewer reported Israeli airstrikes in Syria. In one of them, last September, the outcome seemed ominous when Syria—not a military match for Israel by itself, but backed by Russia and Iran—fired missiles at two Israeli aircraft.

Why, then, the Israeli strike this week? Why no military response this time?

One conjecture: the weapons Israel struck in the Syrian depot and in the convoy would have been particularly unacceptable weapons in Hizballah’s hands.

Another conjecture: the much-touted Israeli-Russian coordination, whereby Netanyahu and Russian president Vladimir Putin are said to have worked out arrangements to avoid clashes, is still operative.

Other possible mitigating factors are that Israel reportedly hit the targets from Lebanese, not Syrian, airspace, and that no Syrian or Hizballah fighters appear to have been killed.

The larger question: what happens if Syria’s Assad and his backers have indeed turned the tide and will be looking to keep extending their control over Syrian territory?

Of interest here are remarks to the Algemeiner website by Yossi Kuperwasser, who has held major positions in Israel’s Military Intelligence.

Kuperwasser, as the site paraphrases it, says that

Iran is stepping up the speed at which it is arming its proxies in the region due to its fear that after Donald Trump assumes the US presidency in January, its room to maneuver in Syria will be greatly hampered….

And regarding Israel and Russia, in Kuperwasser’s own words:

There is a mutual understanding of each other’s interests. Though Russia and Iran are backing Hezbollah combat rebel forces fighting against the Assad regime, Russia understands that Israel cannot allow weapons from Hezbollah in Syria to be moved to Lebanon, where they will be aimed at the Jewish state.

How long can this relatively tolerable—for Israel—situation continue?

Indications are that its days may be numbered. Even if Putin’s strategic goals are not identical to those of his allies—he is clearly not a Shiite ideologue like the Iranians and Hizballah or a Shiite-aligned Arab like Assad—his steps have been increasingly brazen.

Along with the transfer of major weapon systems to Syria, and an aircraft carrier to its coast, they include major weapons sales to Iran, joint provision with Iran of weapons to Iran’s Houthi proxies in Yemen, and reports of Russian aid to Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq.

As Kuperwasser puts it, Israel’s most serious concern is “Iran’s increasing territorial contiguity—crossing Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.”

For the incoming Trump administration, stemming this tide should be an urgent priority. Whatever Putin’s real motive, he is helping create a situation of unacceptable danger to Israel and a Middle East bifurcated between Shiite and Sunni blocs—a recipe for ongoing war and explosive instability.

Originally Published on FrontpageMag