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Sunday, 27 July 2014

Rising tide of anti-semitism in Britain as Jewish people face backlash over bloodshed in Gaza

  • Over 100 hate crimes recorded this month, more than double usual number
  • Attackers invoke the Holocaust and even shout ‘Heil Hitler’ at victims
  • Bricks thrown at Belfast's only synagogue, smashing windows
  • Rabbi attacked by four Muslim teenagers outside school in Gateshead
  • Bomb threat and stones thrown at a boy on a bike in North London 
A young Palestinian protests with thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators outside parliament in London on Saturday
A young Palestinian protests with thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators outside parliament in London on Saturday

Jewish people in Britain are enduring a backlash of attacks, bomb threats and anti-semitic insults fuelled by the bloodshed in Gaza.

More than 100 hate crimes have been recorded by police and community groups this month, more than double the usual number.

Community safety groups fear the total could be the second highest ever recorded, after an explosion of violence during the 2009 Gaza war.

In several disturbing cases attackers have invoked the Holocaust and even shouted: ‘Heil Hitler’ at victims.

A rabbi was attacked by four Muslim teenagers outside a Jewish boarding school in Gateshead in one of the most serious incidents.

In Belfast, bricks were thrown at the city’s only synagogue, smashing windows on two consecutive nights.

Groups of Asian men chanted 'Heil Hitler’ as they drove through a Jewish area of Manchester, throwing missiles at passers-by.

In north London, one pro-Israel organisation received a telephone bomb threat and a Jewish boy riding a bicycle had a stone thrown at his head by a woman in a niqab.

More than 100 incidents have been reported to the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that helps to protect Jews, since the start of this month.

The surge in attacks and threats follows a similar trend in 2009, when up to 1,400 Palestinians were killed during the Gaza war.

Mark Gardner, of the CST, said the figure is ‘at least double’ what the community safety group would expect to see.

He said: ‘We have had at least double the number of incidents that we would expect, but the situation is not out of hand – as is the case in France.

‘The community is aware and alert but not panicking and life continues exactly how it should.’

Secret Tunnels Under Israel Reveal Intricate Threat From Gaza

An Israeli army officer gives explanations to journalist during an army organised tour in a tunnel said to be used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, on July 25, 2014. Photographer: Jack Guez/pool/AFP via Getty Images

Slipping into a tunnel under Israel’s southern border and heading toward the Gaza Strip, the scorching summer heat suddenly turns cooler and the boom of artillery fire above fades away.

The passage, built by Gaza militants to infiltrate Israel, is just high enough for a person carrying a weapon to walk through upright. Its sides and arched ceiling are made of prefabricated cement slabs. Two metal rails run along a poured concrete floor, to accommodate carts that removed dug-out earth and transported weapons, the Israeli military says.

Israel, which has acted for years against smuggling tunnels Gazans built under their border with Egypt, is now on a campaign against what it says is an unexpectedly intricate network of underground passages militants dug into Israeli territory to carry out attacks. Its three-week-old offensive in Hamas-controlled Gaza has presented an opportunity to demolish these tunnels that didn’t exist in quieter times, analysts say.

“What is surprising is the sheer scope of their entire tunnel-building operation, its sophistication, and how much of it we found in built-up populated areas,” said the Gaza Brigade’s chief combat engineer officer, who asked to be identified as Lieutenant-Colonel Max out of security concerns.

The success of the Iron Dome anti-missile system in intercepting rockets fired at Israel from Gaza caused Hamas “to shift much of its strategic effort from above the ground to below it,” Max said. Hamas says Israel’s claims of a “terror tunnel” operation are trumped up.

$30 Million

Militants have spent about $30 million to pour 600,000 tons of cement and other materials into the ground to build the three dozen underground passages found so far, according to army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner. The human toll of wiping them out has been high: More than 1,050 Palestinians and 45 Israelis have died since the conflict began July 8, the overwhelming majority since ground troops invaded Gaza nine days later with the declared aim of destroying the corridors.

Max, an assault rifle slung over his shoulder, wears a flak jacket and helmet as he makes his way down a sandy pit 12 meters (40 feet) deep to reach a tunnel Israel says it uncovered before its planned endpoint was built near Kibbutz Nir Am, an Israeli agricultural community.

The passage’s main entrance shaft was hidden 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) inside Gaza under a greenhouse in Khan Yunis, near the territory’s southern tip, Max said.

Black Cable

As the 35-year-old officer leads the way through the dark, narrow corridor, he shines a flashlight on niches he says were dug out to store weapons. A metal rack running along one side is laced with black cable, remnants of an electrical system.

More than 100 entrance shafts to about 30 tunnels have been discovered since the ground incursion was ordered a day after Palestinian gunmen emerged from an underground passage inside Israel and headed for Nir Am, the military says. There have been at least four infiltrations since, including one in which two soldiers died in a shootout with gunmen, according to the army.

Destroying the tunnels, often during a battle, presents no small challenge.

The corridors, often originating in the basements of Gaza homes and other buildings, can be booby-trapped. Max says he was injured in one such incident a few months earlier.

While the quickest and easiest way to demolish a tunnel is to have soldiers enter it and place explosives down its entire length, the army is drilling openings into the tunnels from above to insert the explosives, then detonating them from a distance to avoid putting troops in harm’s way, Max says.

‘Training Facilities’

“You want to reach a point where the entire tunnel from end to end can be destroyed, so the enemy can’t come back and easily rebuild it,” he says, explaining why this one is still intact.

The military wing of Hamas, the Islamist movement that is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union, accuses Israel of fabricating allegations about tunnels.

“The occupation’s claim that it found tunnels and seized it by showing pictures is a complete lie,” the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement last week. “All the occupation found were underground corridors dug into a training facility that belongs to our group near the border.”

Hamas knows firsthand the potential benefits the tunnels hold for militants. It won freedom for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel in 2011 by releasing a single Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, captured five years earlier by Hamas militants who burrowed into Israel underground.

‘Policy Failure’

Israel has known about the tunnels for about two years and had uncovered several, including the one Max displayed, before the current military operation began. Retired Major-General Amos Yadlin, who headed Israeli Military Intelligence from 2006-2010, said Israel had been constrained by diplomatic considerations from acting earlier against the passages.

“We knew very well the tunnels were there,” Yadlin said. “It’s not an intelligence failure. If it’s a failure, it was a policy failure.”

After Israel discovered a concrete-lined tunnel last October, it began limiting the already restricted entry of cement and other building materials into Gaza. That decision drew criticism from the United Nations and human rights groups, which say the restrictions are crippling a Gaza economy reliant on the construction industry. It also leaves thousands of Palestinians without the means to build or repair homes, including those destroyed or damaged by Israeli military operations, they say.

Re-emerging into the harsh sunlight, Max acknowledges that pressure from the international community to cease fighting might curtail his mission.

“If we want to completely destroy all the tunnels, at least all the ones we know about, it would take at least another week,” he says. “We know also how to achieve a maximum impact within a shortened schedule.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at Caroline Alexander, Amy Teibel

Taliban Making Military Gains in Afghanistan

A member of the Afghan intelligence force, left, and the body of an insurgent after an attack by the Taliban at Kabul's airport on July 17.

MAHMUD RAQI, Afghanistan —Taliban fighters are scoring early gains in several strategic areas near the capital this summer, inflicting heavy casualties and casting new doubt on the ability of Afghan forces to contain the insurgency as the United States moves to complete its withdrawal of combat troops, according to Afghan officials and local elders.

The Taliban have found success beyond their traditional strongholds in the rural south and are now dominating territory near crucial highways and cities that surround Kabul, the capital, in strategic provinces like Kapisa and Nangarhar.

Their advance has gone unreported because most American forces have left the field and officials in Kabul have largely refused to talk about it. The Afghan ministries have not released casualty statistics since an alarming rise in army and police deaths last year.

At a time when an election crisis is threatening the stability of the government, the Taliban’s increasingly aggressive campaign is threatening another crucial facet of the American withdrawal plan, full security by Afghan forces this year.

Afghan police recruits trained in Kabul on Tuesday. Security forces have been under increasing fire in areas around the capital.


“They are running a series of tests right now at the military level, seeing how people respond,” one Western official said, describing a Taliban effort to gauge how quickly they could advance. “They are trying to figure out: Can they do it now, or will it have to wait” until after the American withdrawal, the official added, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the coalition has officially ceded security control.

Interviews with local officials and residents in several strategic areas around the country suggest that, given the success of their attacks, the Taliban are growing bolder just two months into the fighting season, at great cost to Afghan military and police forces.

In Kapisa, a verdant province just north of Kabul that includes a vital highway to northern Afghanistan, insurgents are openly challenging and even driving away the security forces in several districts. Security forces in Tagab District take fire daily from the Taliban, who control everything but the district center. Insurgents in Alasay District, northeast of Kabul, recently laid siege to an entire valley for more than a week, forcing hundreds of residents and 45 police officers to flee. At least some of the local police in a neighboring district have cut deals with the Taliban to save themselves.

In the past month, a once-safe district beside the major city of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, has fallen under Taliban control, and a district along a crucial highway nearby is under constant threat from the Taliban. South of Kabul, police forces in significant parts of Logar and Wardak provinces have been under frequent attack, to deadly effect.

A crowd gathered near the body of a militant fighter after an attack on the Kabul airport on July 17. Ground violence apparently has increased in areas where coalition bases have closed.


But there are only anecdotal reports to help gauge just how deadly the offensive has been. The Afghan defense and interior ministries stopped releasing casualty data after a shocking surge of military and police deaths in 2013 began raising questions about the country’s ability to sustain the losses. By September, with more than 100 soldiers and police officers dying every week, even the commander of theInternational Security Assistance Forcesuggested the losses could not be sustained.

Asked for figures on the latest security force casualties this year, both ministries refused to provide data or confirm accounts from local officials. But there are signs that the casualty rate is already likely to be at least as bad as it was last year.

In one important indicator, the United Nations reported a 24 percent rise in civilian casualties for the first half of this year compared with a similar period from 2013, hitting a new peak since the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began tracking the data in 2009. More significantly, for the first time, the highest number of those casualties came from ground fighting between the Afghan forces and insurgents rather than from roadside bombs.

The United Nations found that more fighting was taking place near populous areas, closer to the district centers that serve as the government seats. Ground violence also seemed to increase in areas where coalition bases had been closed, as the Taliban felt more emboldened to launch attacks without fear of reprisal.

One important effect of those gains, particularly where police forces are being driven away, is that the Taliban are establishing larger sections of lawless territory where they can intimidate local populations. They become safe havens, and staging grounds for more ambitious attacks against Kabul and other major cities, like the militant assault on Kabul’s airport on July 17.

In the immediate vicinity of the country’s main cities, the Afghan military was still holding up well, according to American and Afghan commanders. But as more marginal districts have come under unexpectedly heavy attack, the military planners’ expectations have been tested.

One widely accepted prediction was that soon after 2014, the Taliban would gain in rural areas and traditional strongholds, as the government made tough decisions about what to fight for and what to let go. Places of no strategic value in remote areas of the south and east, some officials said, could afford to be forgotten.

But heavy attacks, and some territorial losses, are already happening in those places, earlier than predicted.

On July 9, the Taliban overran a district center in Ghor Province, a rugged and violent area close to the center of the country, which left Afghan forces scrambling to reclaim it and smarting from the embarrassment. On Saturday, militants stormed Registan District in Kandahar, killing five police officers, including the district police chief, in a battle that continued into the evening.

The heavy fighting earlier this summer in northern Helmand Province, long a Taliban stronghold and a center of opium poppy production, was mostly expected. But the breadth of the Taliban assault, which is now said by locals to extend to four districts, has surprised many, and foreshadowed a more ambitious reach for the insurgents.

The efforts of this fighting season have not been solely in the countryside, or traditional strongholds like those in Helmand. The Taliban have made strides in Nangarhar Province, home to one of the most economically vibrant cities in the country and a strategically important region. Surkh Rod, a district that borders the provincial capital Jalalabad and was safe to visit just three months ago, has become dangerous to enter.

“The difference is that five months ago there were more government forces here; now it is the Taliban,” said Nawab, a resident of Shamshapor village.

Bati Kot District, too, has become more dangerous. Outside the district center, residents say, the Taliban dominate a crucial swath of territory that straddles the main highway leading from Kabul to the eastern border with Pakistan. Villagers living in the district say the Taliban force them to feed and house insurgents, and threaten to kill them if they refuse.

Much like Nangarhar, Kapisa is connected directly to Kabul, presenting a troubling threat for the government as it struggles to safeguard the security corridor around the capital. Trouble in three districts has been the focus of a concerted American Special Forces campaign to ferret out the insurgents, who many say appear more trained and disciplined than the average Taliban.

“The command and control is incredible,” said one American Special Forces officer who has fought with his men in insurgent-controlled valleys in Kapisa. “They have found an awesome safe haven.”

The biggest fear for the province stems from Tagab and Alasay districts. Though there is an entire battalion of Afghan soldiers in the area, the vast majority of the fighting and dying are done by the police forces.

Two weeks ago, in the Askin Valley area of Alasay, insurgents surrounded a village where the local and national police had only recently taken root. Tribal and interpersonal rivalries fueled the animosity toward the police, but the consequence was clear: The government was not welcome.

An estimated 60 insurgents surrounded Askin Valley and engaged in a gunfight with about 35 local and 10 national police officers in the area, according to police officials. The two sides fought for more than a week, with coalition aircraft entering the area to offer support for the beleaguered security forces. Eventually, the police were forced to retreat, along with hundreds of villagers.

Two police officials in the area, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, relayed the account. One, a local police officer, said the Taliban’s reach permeated the entire district, and the security forces were consigned to their bases, trying to stay alive.

“The Afghan security forces are controlling the bazaar for one in every 24 hours,” the commander said. “From 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., the police, army and local police come out of their outposts and buy what they need, then they go back to their bases.”

Scottish Jews for a Just Peace wants more boycotts

Daniel Sanderson

Sunday 27 July 2014

THE boycott of performances

Henry Maitles, a member of Scottish Jews for a Just Peace, said his group had come to the conclusion that cultural events backed by the Israeli state should be opposed, as they were designed to enhance the country's reputation abroad.

Maitles, a professor of education at the University of the West of Scotland, said: "In the light of the indiscriminate shelling and bombing of civilians in Gaza … combined with the internationally condemned illegal occupation and settlements in the West Bank and the illegal blockade on Gaza, we feel that nothing other than the strongest support for the isolation of Israel can begin to end the impasse." He said their stance was similar to boycotts which helped end apartheid in South Africa.

Fringe Israeli dance show is second targeted by boycott

The anti-Israel brigade are mobilising their comments responses. How difficult can it be to get off our backsides for just two minutes and let our voices be heard.
Please make an effort!
Renaud Sarda, stanly Grossman, Mickey Green (Scottish Friends of Israel)
THE boycott of performances linked to the state of Israel at the Edinburgh Fringe is to be extended with a second show now being targeted by protestors.
Here is the full article ; 

Fringe Israeli dance show is second targeted by boycott

Published on 27 July 2014

THE boycott of performances linked to the state of Israel at the Edinburgh Fringe is to be extended with a second show now being targeted by protestors.

The latest show to face the boycott is by student dancers from Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev who are to put on a show called La Karina on four dates next month at the St Brides Centre in the capital.

As the university gets funding from the Israeli government, there are calls to boycott the event in protest at Israel's military offensive in Gaza.

Last week, an open letter signed by more than 50 cultural figures, including Scotland's national poet Liz Lochhead, called for another show, The City by Incubator Theatre of Israel, to be axed by promoter Underbelly.

It is understood that the La Karina show is now also to be opposed. Advocates of the ban believe Israel tries to "lend itself a sense of cultural legitimacy and to distract attention from the brutality of its illegal occupation" through international trips by its artists.

Protests are now planned by members of the Gaza Emergency Co-ordinating Committee (Scotland) at the openings of the two shows, with hip-hop opera The City opening at the Underbelly Bristo Square venue on July 30, and La Karina to debut on August 9.

The promoter of the La Karina show, Stoneyport Associates, refused to comment on the boycott and demonstration. The dance troupe did not respond to emails from the Sunday Herald.

Underbelly said there was no change in its stance: "All artists, from whatever creed or nation, must have freedom of expression". Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has said she opposes "cultural boycotts".

Henry Maitles, a member of Scottish Jews for a Just Peace, said his group had come to the conclusion that cultural events backed by the Israeli state should be opposed, as they were designed to enhance the country's reputation abroad.

Maitles, a professor of education at the University of the West of Scotland, said: "In the light of the indiscriminate shelling and bombing of civilians in Gaza … combined with the internationally condemned illegal occupation and settlements in the West Bank and the illegal blockade on Gaza, we feel that nothing other than the strongest support for the isolation of Israel can begin to end the impasse." He said their stance was similar to boycotts which helped end apartheid in South Africa.

"Our aim is for a solution where people of all religions and none can live side by side in a democratic manner. Rights and justice for the Palestinians are central to this. Israel will need to be forced into this and the boycott is something we can push for to take this forward."

The ramping up of the boycott came as protesters throughout the UK took to the streets yesterday in protest at Israel's actions in Gaza. Several hundred took part in a protest in Edinburgh organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Some 45,000 gathered in London outside the Israeli embassy, after it was revcealed Israel's latest incursion into Gaza had killed over 1000 Palestinians, including at least 192 children.

A spokesman for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said: "The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is an open-access festival. This means that anyone with a show can take part. No overall curator decides who can or can't take part, or what they should or shouldn't do. The Fringe Society neither selects or invites shows to take part and it is this founding principle of open-access that has led to the worldwide success of the event over the last six decades."

A spokesman for Ben-Gurion University of the Negev said: "The University is the embodiment of co-existence and has long been involved in many academic and research initiatives with Palestinians ... This involvement contradicts the claims of those who lead this inexplicable process against the university, a process which shows no awareness of the reality on the ground.

"A boycott of the university would harm efforts to strengthen co-existence and damage academic research collaborations for the good of all."

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Putin's Daughter May Have Fled the Netherlands Amid Outcry

Maria Putin, daughter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, reportedly lives in the small town of Voorschoten in the Netherlands. Earlier this week, the mayor of Hilversum, about 70 kilometers away, called for her deportation. Mayor Pieter Broertjes made his comments during a radio interview, while discussing the investigation of Flight MH17, on which the majority of passengers were Dutch. While Broertjes later apologized for his comments, the damage was already done, and Maria has allegedly fled her home.

Very little is known about Putin's family life, which is very rarely discussed by Russian media. The 29-year-old daughter of Putin is thought to have lived with her Dutch partner, Jorrit Faassen, who works for a consulting firm. Beyond the mayor's comments on the radio, she also reportedly received a number of threats via social media and web forums. There was digital discussion of protesting her luxury apartment building. Because of these threats, local police have increased presence around the building as a precaution.

Neighbors have reported that Maria and her partner have not been seen since last Thursday, when MH17 was struck. They live in a five-bedroom, two-story apartment, valued over $3 million. 

While Maria Putin and her sister have managed to mainly stay out of the public eye, in harsh contrast to their father, they are now being affected by media attention streaming from their father's actions.

Obama mixes politics and aviation safety

John Kerry landed at Ben Gurion Airport despite the FAA flight ban.

24/07/2014, 16:31, Korin-Lieber, Globes
President Barack Obama is the supreme commander of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which suspended flights to Israel Tuesday night, extended to Thursday morning (in the middle of the night, Eastern Standard Time).

Was this due to an aviation risk? An anxiety attack? A hasty clerical decision? Was it bureaucracy, technocracy, or the politics of threats? US law grants the FAA the authority to make decisions in professional matters. It usually confines itself to giving "advice" that amounts to a professional recommendation. This week, it issued a notice to airmen to refrain from landing in Israel. In a press release, FAA spokesperson Kristie Greco wrote that the decision was a response to the rocket that fell less than 1 km from Ben Gurion Airport. She was referring to the rocket that fell in Yehud.

The instruction, however, was issued without checking the actual distance between the airport runways and where the rocket fell in Yehud. The official claim raised in the intensive talks conducted by Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz and Israel Civil Aviation Authority director Giora Romm was that the step was an automatic clerical measure that met the terms for authorization, with no ulterior motives. On Wednesday, the following day, while the ban and risk were in force, US Secretary of State John Kerry landed at Ben Gurion Airport.

If a major US agency says the risk is clear, how did senior US security personnel allow him and themselves to land there? If the flight risk was so clear cut, how could major airlines like British Airways and Aeroflot continue their routine flights to Israel? This is where we get to the hot potato on which Israeli senior politicians are unwilling to be quoted on the record: whether there was political involvement in the decision.

It is believed that the decision was originally a hasty and unchecked clerical response. The later extension of the ban, however, was obviously politically motivated. 

Senator Ted Cruz (Rep., Texas) referred to this when he recently said, "The facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands."