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Posts Tagged ‘Raphael Ahren’

According to the European Union: not all ‘occupations’ are the same

by Mojambo ( 58 Comments › )
Filed under History, Israel, Turkey at January 7th, 2014 - 3:00 pm

People never talk about the Turkish occupation of Northern  Cyprus because the Turks don’t give a damn what others think (they have never admitted to the Armenian Genocide) and the Turks are Muslims so they get a pass.

by Raphael Ahren

Many Israelis have long felt that the European Union is biased against them. Two legal scholars – a former Israeli ambassador and an American Jewish international law professor — think they’ve found the perfect case to prove the claim: A new fishing deal, signed between the Europeans and Morocco, which applies beyond Morocco’s internationally recognized borders, taking in the territory of Western Sahara, even though Morocco invaded that area in 1975 and has occupied ever since.

The two scholars are now challenging EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to explain why the agreement, in not excluding Morocco’s occupied territory, doesn’t prove that the EU is holding Israel to a double standard.

The EU insists that any agreement it signs with Israel explicitly exclude the settlements in the “occupied” West Bank, the scholars noted in a letter sent last month to Ashton’s Brussels office. So why don’t the same constraints apply in the case of Morocco? This blatant inconsistency shows “an official double-standard practiced by the EU,” Professor Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University and Israeli ex-ambassador to Canada Alan Baker charged.


The EU maintains that Israel’s presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is unique, legally speaking, but consistently refuses to explain exactly how it differs from, say, Turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus or that Moroccan presence in Western Sahara; while Rabat asserts ownership of the territory, not a single other country recognizes the claim.

In their letter to Ashton, sent on behalf of the Legal Forum for Israel, the two scholars posited that the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement, approved earlier this month by the European Parliament, appears “to directly contradict what the EU has called obligations of international law in its dealing with Israel.”

“In fact, the EU has been negotiating this agreement with Morocco even as it imposes on Israel unprecedented funding guidelines and rules of origin requirements that say the exact opposite,” Kontorovich and Baker wrote, referring to much-discussed guidelines that, from January 1, ban any European funding from going to Israeli entities beyond the Green Line or those with any connections beyond the Green Line. Jerusalem’s fierce opposition to those guidelines famously jeopardized Israel’s participation in Horizon 2020, a highly lucrative scientific cooperation program; the Horizon partnership was ultimately saved.

The EU’s response, authored on Ashton’s behalf by the managing director of the union’s external action service’s Middle East and Southern Neighborhood department, Hugues Mingarelli, read: “With regards to the allegation of using double standards for Israel and Morocco, our analysis is that the two cases are different and cannot be compared.” No further explanation was given.


“The terseness of Ashton’s statement reflects the general moral superiority of EU officials toward Israel that I’ve encountered in my attempts to discuss these issues with them,” he added. “The attitude is that they are the judges, we are the suspect. How dare we accuse or judge them? As one senior EU official said when I brought these matters up with him, ‘We’re here to talk about you [Israel], not us.’ That is why they do not need to give their reasons: They do not have to explain themselves. We do.”

The EU delegation in Israel declined to formally comment on the matter for this article. Privately, local EU sources told The Times of Israel that, according to the United Nations, Western Sahara is a “disputed non-self-governing territory under de-facto Moroccan administration. This differs from the legal situation applying to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

Every situation is different from every other situation, Kontorovich allowed. “The question is whether there are legally relevant differences.”

According to his analysis of international law as it applies to belligerent occupations, Kontorovich said, Israel’s claim to the West Bank is actually stronger than that of many other countries ruling over conquered territory, mostly for historical reasons. Furthermore, he said, the case of Western Sahara is actually quite similar to that of the West Bank, because in both cases no sovereign state existed in the disputed territory before it was occupied.


Kontorovich, currently a visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said the EU’s legal positions, on which it bases its West Bank funding guidelines and other Middle East policies, are rooted in an interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, which render Israel’s settlement activity “illegal under international law” and a war crime.

Article 49, paragraph 6, of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Violations of the convention are considered war crimes under international law. Israel is a party to the convention and therefore bound by it.

“The EU’s basic argument is that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is an occupation under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and it draws many consequences from this interpretation of international law. But under the Geneva Conventions, there are no multiple flavors of occupation,” Kontorovich argued. “So how is the occupation of the West Bank different from any other occupation?”

The legal scholar said his research has revealed that no other country has ever been accused, on an international level, of violating Geneva Convention 49:6. “The UN has condemned Morocco [for occupying Western Sahara], but never said the country commits a war crime” by moving some of its population there. According to Kontorovich and Baker — who in addition to serving as a diplomat used to be a legal adviser to Israel’s Foreign Ministry — Rabat, after the 1975 invasion, pursued “an aggressive settlement policy, as a result of which settlers may now be the majority in the territory.”

The exact legal status of Western Sahara is the subject of much scholarly debate; some consider Morocco merely a “de-facto administrative power,” while others see it as a full-fledged occupier. The EU does not consider Western Sahara to be occupied, and Israel has no formal policy on the matter.

Another situation that is often compared to the West Bank is that of Northern Cyprus, which the EU does see as being occupied by Turkey. And yet, Kontorovich said, the body supports Turkish “settlers” of that territory.

“The EU knowingly and purposefully gives direct grants, funding, etc. to Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus,” according to a paper Kontorovich co-authored in October. “The EU’s official policy is that Turkey must end its occupation, and the Turkish invasion was condemned by every international institution from the Security Council on down. Nonetheless, the EU maintains an entire program to direct funds to Turks in Northern Cyprus.”


Claims of a European double standard are common currency in Israel’s political establishment, especially on the right. “The EU should also ask itself whether Israel is receiving equal and fair treatment like all other states,” Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said in November, in the presence of the EU’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, at a Knesset session dedicated to European-Israeli relations. There is a “lack of equality given to the conflict here compared with other conflicts in the world,” Elkin lamented. The EU “allows itself to invest in Cyprus, a region of conflict, but asks us not to invest any money in Judea and Samaria.”

But last month, Faaborg-Andersen told The Times of Israel that while criticism of a double standard has never come up in his discussions with Israeli officials, if it did he would reject it by pointing to the uniqueness of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Northern Cyprus, for instance, cannot be compared to the West Bank since it is a “totally different situation,” he said.

“There is no legal parallel to the situation of the occupied territories and any other situation, be it Northern Cyprus or Western Sahara,” he went on. “The only parallel that exists, according to the lawyers in Brussels, is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” he added, referring to a region at the heart of a territorial feud between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The EU recently concluded an agreement with Armenia, which occupies Nagorno-Karabakh, and made sure to specify that the disputed enclave was excluded, he noted.

Read the rest –  Why is this occupation different from all other occupations?


Mahmoud Abbas ridiculed for claiming that Jesus was a ‘Palestinian’

by Mojambo ( 130 Comments › )
Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Islamic Supremacism, Israel, Judaism, Palestinians at December 30th, 2013 - 12:00 pm

This is up there with their notion that the Temple was not  located where that hideous Mosque is, and that Noah,  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus, and Moses were all Muslims.

by Raphael Ahren

Israeli officials reacted with bitter scorn to a Christmas message from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in which he called Jesus a Palestinian and suggested Israel was to blame for the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land.

“He should have read the Gospel before uttering such offensive nonsense, but we will forgive him because he doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel on Monday. Abbas’s statement is an “outrageous rewriting of Christian history,” according to Palmor.

 Earlier on Monday, Abbas published a lengthy Christmas greeting, calling Jesus “a Palestinian messenger who would become a guiding light for millions around the world.” Although he expressed his commitment to the peace negotiations with Israel, he expressed harsh criticism of Israeli policies, including an accusation that Jerusalem is responsible for the plight of Christians in the Holy Land.

“We celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem under occupation,” Abbas wrote. “This Christmas Eve, our hearts and prayers will be with the millions who are being denied their right to worship in their homeland.” He called the security barrier an “annexation Wall, which is stealing [Palestinians’] land and dooming their future.”

These rather unfriendly statements are “not exactly in the spirit of Christmas,” Palmor, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said cynically. “Maybe he needs a hug from Santa?”

Abbas also mentioned Palestinians “trapped under siege” in Gaza, and “those who are prevented from worshiping in Bethlehem. Our hearts and prayers are with the people of Al Dbayeh Refugee Camp in Beirut, along with all of our Palestinian refugees — Christians and Muslims uprooted from their hometowns in 1948 and who, since that time, have suffered the vicissitudes of a forced exile.”

Abbas said more Palestinians will celebrate Christmas in Western cities than will do so in the city of Jesus’ birth. “To them we say that Bethlehem is their town and Palestine is their country. We will continue working tirelessly to give them the freedom to decide where to spend Christmas.”

An Israeli government official took offense particularly with the suggestion that Israel has caused Christians to leave the Holy Land. “The exodus of Christians from Bethlehem turned into a flood the moment the PA took control,” the official said.

But at least one Israeli official had some warm words for Abbas’s holiday message: MK Hanna Swaid (Hadash), an Arab Christian from the Galilee town of Eilaboun, backed up the message, if not the facts, of Abbas’s missive.

“What President Mahmoud Abbas said describes the real situation — Palestinians, including Christians, are celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve under Israeli occupation. That’s a fact,” he said.

Abbas’s Christmas message seemed to paper over the fact that Christians in the PA are only a fraction of the Muslims living in the West Bank and Gaza.

“Christians are not a minority here: they are an integral part of the Palestinian people,” Abbas wrote in his Christmas message. “Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians, Assyrians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Copts, Melkites, Protestants and others are all part of the rich mosaic of this free, sovereign, democratic and pluralistic Palestine we aspire to have.”

According to the CIA World Factbook, Christians make up 8 percent of the population in the West Bank, and 0.7% of Gaza.

Swaid, 58, acknowledged that in reality Christians are a minority among Palestinians, but noted that he appreciated Abbas’s comments nonetheless. “If the president of a country says so, he thinks and believes that to be the case,” Swaid said, adding that Abbas meant to emphasize that Christians are an “integral part” of Palestinian society.



Read the rest – Israel to Abbas: No, Jesus was not a Palestinian

Israeli analysts ridicule the notion of a strike on Iran via Azerbaijan

by Mojambo ( 73 Comments › )
Filed under Iran, Israel at April 3rd, 2012 - 2:00 pm

Face it, it is impossible to pull off a successful Israeli air attack on Iran. Only one nation can do that – another reason (of the many scores of reasons) to beat Obama.

by Raphael Ahren

Israeli military and intelligence analysts on Sunday categorically dismissed the notion that Israel is considering using airbases in Azerbaijan to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities.

A widely quoted article in Foreign Policy magazine making such claims caused a major stir in recent days, prompting a denial from Azerbaijan and leading one former senior US official to accuse the White House of leaking Israeli operational plans to the media in a bid to thwart an attack on Iran.

But Israeli analysts lined up Sunday to deride the idea as everything illogical, baseless, and impossible.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Ephraim Kam, the deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies and a former officer in the research division of the IDF’s Military Intelligence branch. “Azerbaijan has no interest in picking a fight with its neighbor Iran,” he added. “It’s a relatively new country and I don’t see how it could possibly be in their interest to grant any assistance to Israel in an attack on Iran.”

Kam added: “If the Azeri were really to help Israel carry out attack on Iran, they would pick a huge fight with Iran, and if Iran decided to strike Azerbaijan, nobody would come to their help. In my eyes this scenario seems absolutely impossible.

Last Wednesday, Mark Perry wrote in the widely respected Foreign Policy magazine that “several high-level sources” in the American government believe that the good security cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan increased the risks of an Israeli strike on Iran. “In particular,” Perry writes, “four senior diplomats and military intelligence officers say that the United States has concluded that Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran’s northern border. To do what, exactly, is not clear.”


The article, entitled ”Israel’s Secret Staging Ground,” was quoted in virtually all Israeli and dozens of international newspapers, and led some commentators to accuse the US administration of trying to foil an Israeli attack on Iran by divulging Jerusalem’s plans and thus making them unusable.

“I think this leak today is part of the administration’s campaign against an Israeli attack,” John Bolton, a former American ambassador to the United Nations and right-wing pundit, told Fox News on Thursday.

“No one seems to have raised the real questions before rushing to publish or quote the Perry-tale,” Yaari wrote on Sunday in The Times of Israel. “Elementary, Mr. Perry: How would the Israeli Air Force reach those airbases in Azerbaijan? Are the Israelis going to get a permit from Mr. Erdogan to fly over Turkey on their way to hit Iran? Does it make any sense? Or, alternatively, does Perry want us to believe that the Israelis will choose to bypass Turkey on their secret mission via the longer route over Greece and Bulgaria, thus becoming fully exposed to Russian radar in the Black Sea? Take a look at the map, Mr. Perry — there is no other way for the Israelis to get to Azerbaijan!”

Yaari also dismissed the idea that Israeli jets could use Azeri airfields on their way back to Israel after a strike. “How can Azerbaijan possibly afford to cooperate in an attack on Iran when it depends on Iran entirely for maintaining control over that significant part of this country, the Nakhichevan region, an exclave and autonomous republic of Azerbaijan that is totally separated from the main Azeri territory by its archenemy, Armenia?”

Iranian missiles could easily destroy the Azeri airbases Israel purportedly plans to use, as well as the large oil terminal near the capital Baku, which would devastate the country’s economy, Yaari added.

Shlomo Brom, a former chief of the IDF’s strategic planning division, agrees that the theory put forward by Perry’s article doesn’t seem logical.

“This is utterly baseless. Azerbaijan is a small country that borders on Iran. It just doesn’t make sense they would help Israel attack them. It would be suicidal,” Brom told The Times of Israel.

Brom added: “It is known that Mark Perry is not a huge fan of Israel. What probably happened is that he took a kernel of truth — that Israel and Azerbaijan have good bilateral cooperation, just like Israel has many other strategic alliances in the world, for example with India — and turned it into something that is it not, which is military cooperation on a strike on Iran.”

Read the rest – Israeli analysts deride notion of a strike  on Iran via Azerbaijan