Resources updated between Monday, December 19, 2016 and Sunday, December 25, 2016
December 25, 2016
Obama's Anti-Israel Tantrum Article
December 24, 2016
The vicious condemnation of Israel at the UN Security Council on December 23, 2016 is a watershed moment in U.S.-UN relations – albeit not as President Obama hoped. Following the vote of fourteen in favor and one American abstention, Palestinian representative Riyadh Mansour and American Ambassador Samantha Power exchanged a telling handshake. Evidently, President Obama believes that he has put one over on Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the incoming Trump administration. But here's another possibility: treachery at the UN will not be cost free.
Let's be absolutely clear about what has just happened. The Palestinians have completed the hijacking of every major UN institution. The 2016 General Assembly has adopted nineteen resolutions condemning Israel and nine critical of all other UN states combined. The 2016 Commission on the Status of Women adopted one resolution condemning Israel and zero on any other state. The 2016 UN Human Rights Council celebrated ten years of adopting more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than any other place on earth. And now – to the applause of the assembled – the Palestinians can add the UN Security Council to their list.
Resolution sponsors Malaysia and New Zealand explained UN-think to the Council this way: Israeli settlements are "the single biggest threat to peace" and the "primary threat to the viability of the two-state solution." Not seven decades of unremitting Arab terror and violent rejection of Jewish self-determination in the historic homeland of the Jewish people.
This is not just any lie. This is the big lie of modern antisemitism. This is the lie that drove a Palestinian teenager in June of this year to creep into the home of 13-year old Hallel Ariel and butcher her with a knife in the back as she slept in her bed.
The bed was located in the "settlement" of Kiryat Arba – on Arab-claimed territory whose ownership – by agreement – is subject to final status negotiations instead of back-stabbing UN resolutions. So to skip the UN-eze, today's hate fest was diplomatic terrorism.
Obama's failure to veto the resolution is at odds with long-standing American foreign policy that has insisted on peace through negotiations, and not UN-fiat, as the only way to ensure genuine and long-lasting recognition and cooperation. His excuse for throwing bipartisan wisdom overboard was delivered by Ambassador Power, in one of the most disingenuous statements in the history of American diplomacy.
Power began by likening Obama's deed to Ronald Reagan's treatment of Israel. She repeatedly claimed that the move was nothing new and "in line" with the past, though "historic" is how speaker-after-speaker and the President of the Council himself described it. She noted "Israel has been treated differently than other nations at the United Nations" and then doubled-down on more of the same. She complained that Council "members suddenly summon the will to act" when it comes to Israel, after the White House had actively pushed the frantic adoption of the resolution with less than 48 hours' notice.
At its core, this UN move is a head-on assault on American democracy. President Obama knew full well he did not have Congressional support for the Iran deal, so he went straight to the Security Council first. Likewise, he knew that there would have been overwhelming Congressional opposition to this resolution, so he carefully planned his stealth attack.
He waited until Congress was not in session. Members of his administration made periodic suggestions that nothing had been decided. There were occasional head fakes that he was "leaning" against it. He produced smiling photo-ops from a Hawaiian golf course with no obvious major foreign policy moves minutes away. Holiday time-outs were in full-swing across the country. And then he pounced, giving Israel virtually no notice of his intent not to veto.
Profound betrayal of a true democratic friend of the United States is the only possible description.
Israel's Ambassador Danny Danon held up a Bible in that sanctuary of idolatry and spoke of the holiday of Chanukah, about to commence this calendar year on Christmas Eve. He reminded his listeners that over two thousand years ago another King had banished the Jewish people from the Temple in Jerusalem, and tried to sever Jews from their religion and their heritage.
And he continued: "But we prevailed. The Jewish people fought back. We regained our independence and relit the Menorah candles...We overcame those decrees during the time of the Maccabees and we will overcome this evil decree today."
The Security Council and President Obama leave a trail of devastation across the planet, with evil empowered and good forsaken. But their record does not have to be our future. Today's vote reminds us of what it takes for evil to triumph.
Doing nothing is not an option for our new President and our incoming Congress. The time has come to undertake an urgent and full review of America's relationship to the United Nations, and to suspend financial support until that review can identify how best to use American dollars in the interests of peace, security and human dignity. The perfidy of Barack Obama will not be the last word.
December 23, 2016
December 22, 2016
The US army's commander in Europe has accused Russia of using its military campaign in Syria as a "live-fire training opportunity".
Lt Gen Ben Hodges said Russia's "disregard for civilian casualties... is not the conduct of a nation that wants to be treated like a superpower".
Russia's defence minister said on Thursday that its air force had killed 35,000 fighters in Syria. But Russia has been accused of using heavy weapons in civilian areas.
It has consistently denied targeting civilians.
'Stronger than any potential aggressor'
Russia's aerial intervention in the Syrian conflict last year has helped the Syrian army capture eastern Aleppo. But it has further heightened tensions with the West, after it annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said 162 types of modern armaments had been tested during the campaign in Syria, which included 18,800 aerial sorties.
"What we see in Syria of course is a demonstration of capabilities and using weapons that are not necessary," Gen Hodges told the BBC.
President-elect Donald Trump is known to want better relations with Moscow, but Gen Hodges said the US military was pushing ahead with plans to bolster its presence in Europe.
"All the indications show we are going to continue our commitment," he said.
President Vladimir Putin gave a bullish account on Thursday of Russia's military strength at the defence ministry's final meeting of 2016, describing it as "currently stronger than any potential aggressor".
But he said Russia had to "strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems".
Mr Shoigu accused Nato of doubling the intensity of its military exercises, mainly with the focus on Russia.
He singled out the UK, accusing British armed forces of using Russian tanks and army uniforms to identify the enemy during exercises on Salisbury Plain in southern England.
"The last time this way of training troops was used was by Nazi Germany," he added.
"The government of Egypt has decided to nix its plan to proceed with a resolution at the UN Security Council condemning Israel over its settlement activity, a Western diplomatic source told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Egypt's Fattah al-Sisi had introduced the draft on Wednesday evening, and the Council planned a vote for Thursday at 3:00 pm EST.
But 'President Sisi caved to Israeli pressure,' the source said. 'This is a resolution that the Egyptians spearheaded and introduced, only to shelve it under Israeli pressure.'
The resolution would demand Israel 'immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem.'...
In a statement early on Thursday morning, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon criticized the resolution, especially in light of conflicts in the region. 'It is bizarre that while thousands are being slaughtered in Syria,' he wrote, 'the Security Council dedicates time specifically to discuss the condemnation of the sole democracy in the Middle East [Israel].'...
Also on Thursday, former Israeli ambassador to the UN Dore Gold said if the Security Council adopts the Egyptian-backed anti-settlement resolution, Israel will likely be faced with a rejuvenated boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) effort around the world.
'What this resolution will do is leave in its wake a number of initiatives in the NGO community that will require governments taking legal measures to restrict the actions of NGOs who really want to advance a boycott and divestment agenda,' he said."
Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016) Development
December 21, 2016
U.S. companies are in for a shock as President Obama takes aim once again at Israel in the final month of his presidency. In the coming days, he is expected to direct his team at the United Nations to vote for U.S. funding of "BDS," the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign aimed at financially ruining Israel and smearing the companies with which it does business.
The vote concerns the U.N. budget that is currently being negotiated and scheduled to be finalized this week. One of the line items provides funding for the implementation of a Human Rights Council resolution adopted in March. The resolution calls for the creation of a blacklist of companies around the world doing any business, directly or indirectly, connected to Israeli settlements. In effect, it launches a U.N.-sponsored BDS movement. Since the General Assembly holds the purse strings for the Human Rights Council's operations, the time has come to allocate the money to pay for it.
With Obama's U.N. diplomats sitting on their hands while the funding scheme is being hotly debated, American taxpayers can expect to find themselves funding BDS in the very near future, with American businesses caught in the crosshairs.
Israeli settlements consist of Jews living peaceful, productive lives on disputed territory whose ownership, by existing agreement, is to be determined through negotiations. This Jewish presence on Arab-claimed territory is offensive to a deeply anti-Semitic enemy that seeks to guarantee that land swapped in an eventual deal to create a Palestinian state will be Jew-free.
In the context of a Palestinian policy of ethnic cleansing, these Jewish farms, enterprises and schools are an "obstacle to peace," to use the preferred verbiage of the United Nations and the Obama administration. The fact that Jews have repeatedly been moved in advance of a negotiated end to hostilities by their own government for the sake of peace, only to have those hopes dashed time and again, is simply dismissed.
The real obstacle to ending the Arab-Israeli conflict should be obvious after seven decades of non-stop war and terror since the minute of Israel's creation. Arab rejectionists, on both the battlefield and diplomatic turf, consider all of Israel to be occupied territory and an illegal settlement from 1948 on. Rolling back the clock to the 1967 war is one stop on the way.
Those facts, however, will not intrude on Obama's BDS calculus. He is an avid supporter of the Human Rights Council, one of the most extreme anti-Israel bodies at the United Nations. Joining the council was one of his first foreign policy initiatives. After serving two consecutive three-year terms starting in 2009, the rules required a one-year hiatus. Hence, the U.S. has not been a council member in 2016.
But attempting to rule from the grave, a week before the U.S. elections, Obama sought and obtained another three-year term to commence Jan. 1, 2017. As a council fan, he has no intention of objecting to funding it.
On the contrary, U.N. budget documents published Dec. 13 indicate that "new requirements" to implement council resolutions and decisions taken over the past year almost double the original $23 million it was allowed to spend for this purpose in the 2016-2017 biennium. Evidently, council devotees took for granted an Obama administration carte blanche.
On Dec. 15, the General Assembly budget committee (the "Fifth Committee") met to approve the funds for the Human Rights Council, including the funds to create the Council's blacklist - aka BDS "database." U.N. documentation indicates that the cost is $138,700 "to pay for one staff member to create the database over a period of 8 months and present a report" to the Human Rights Council in March 2017. In other words, authorization is being backdated to pay for an operation already underway.
To put this in perspective, the council resolution on "Realizing the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl" needs $82,800. "Effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of all human rights" needs $74,700. And a blacklist of companies with ties to Israel needs $138,700.
At the Dec. 15 meeting, the Israeli U.N. representative on the Fifth Committee pleaded with "member states to reject the funding request." But Obama's U.N. diplomat - who was present and spoke on an unrelated issue - said nothing. The Palestinian representative floated procedural objections, claiming it was a done deal. Precedent, though, is not on his side.
In 2007, when the U.N. allotted money to fund a second iteration of the racist "anti-racism" Durban conference, the Bush administration stood rock solid on a matter of principle. The U.S. called for the vote in the General Assembly's Fifth Committee and unequivocally voted against. When it lost, it voted against the entire U.N. biennial budget.
Obama is not that man. He prefers to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with human rights authorities on the Human Rights Council like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, China and Cuba. He is prepared to spend American taxpayer dollars to create a blacklist of companies doing business with the democratic state of Israel instead of the world's most horrific regimes. A presidency spent courting moral relativism, forsaking U.S. allies, and indulging U.S. adversaries is about to reach its lowest point yet.
"Billions of pounds of British aid cash is 'dumped' every year into trust funds operated by the World Bank in order to meet the controversial aid target.
The UK has channelled £9billion in this way over the past five years and in the process was charged £241million in administration fees by the bank.
Experts said yesterday the money was being funnelled through these trust funds to ensure the UK meets the annual aim of spending 0.7 per cent of national income on helping the developing world. In some cases, the money sits there for years. It is believed £4billion the UK has contributed is still to be spent.
Much of the cash goes towards consultancy fees, staff costs and travel expenses – including business class flights. Yesterday the most senior civil servant at the aid department denied the money was simply dumped.
Mark Lowcock, permanent secretary at the Department for International Development, told MPs the cash is given to the bank in the form of 'promissory notes' – which means money is only paid out when it is used. International Development Secretary Priti Patel also said she wanted to see more transparency from the Bank about how money was spent.
According to The Times, Britain is the second largest contributor to the World Bank's trust funds, which have been repeatedly criticised for a lack of transparency and effectiveness. Over the past five years, the Government has channelled at least £9billion into 219 different trusts, more than any country apart from the US. Germany spends far less.
Aid consultant James Morton said: 'DfID dumps large sums into trust funds and accounts for it as spent against a given year's UK aid budget.
'Judging by the large balances the World Bank and the United Nations hold, some of the money then sits there for years.'
About £17.5billion is sitting in trusts to which Britain has contributed. Of this, the UK's share is about £4billion, according to an analysis of its accounts. Last year the World Bank received £3.3billion from Britain.
Many trusts run by the bank continue to accept donations despite retaining a large proportion of their funds, an analysis shows.
In 2004, Britain gave $15million to a trust set up to fund small businesses in Iraq, while the US gave $10million.
More than a decade later, half of the sum remains in the trust with no money having been paid out for at least five years. In 2011 the World Bank's independent regulator warned of 'significant shortcomings' in the way trust fund resources were distributed.
The DfID said the bank 'must work harder and smarter' in the way it uses money from British taxpayers.
A spokesman said: 'Britain is challenging the bank to focus its support on those who need it most, ensuring the world's poorest are not blocked from the opportunities they need to stand on their own two feet.
'That is why we are using our position in the bank to push for significant reforms that work for Britain and the world's poorest.'"
December 20, 2016
December 19, 2016
Taliban militants in Afghanistan have shot dead a woman who divorced her husband and remarried, officials say.
The killing took place in north-western Badghis province. There are some reports that the woman's husband had authorised the separation from abroad.
But when he returned to Afghanistan, he petitioned a self-appointed Taliban court against her remarriage. The Taliban deny carrying out the killing.
Divorce is taboo in the country, especially for women.
Officials said the militants forced the woman, whose name has been given as Aziza, to go to her father's house, where they shot her.
Local politician Naser Nazari said the woman, thought to be 25, was killed on Saturday.
"Her former husband authorised one of his relatives here to divorce Aziza," he told Pajhwok news.
It reported that she then married another man but when her husband returned from working in Iran he denied divorcing her and went to the militants.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi told the BBC the cause of the killing was a family feud.
He said the Taliban had already detained two men involved in the case and pledged to "punish them according to Sharia law".
There are regular reports of the Taliban putting women to death in areas they control after accusing them of adultery or other alleged transgressions.
They carried out the public killing of women - usually over alleged adultery - in the main stadium in the capital, Kabul, when they were in power in the country in the 1990s.
A truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital Berlin on Monday evening, killing nine people and injuring up to 50 others, police said.
German media, citing police at the scene, said first indications pointed to an attack on the market, situated at the foot of the ruined Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, which was kept as a bombed-out ruin after World War Two.
The incident evoked memories of an attack in France in July when Tunisian-born man drove a 19-tonne truck along the beach front, mowing down people who had gathered to watch the fireworks on Bastille Day, killing 86 people. The attack was claimed by Islamic State.
The truck careered into the Berlin market at what would have been one of the most crowded times for the Christmas market, when adults and children would be gathering in the traditional cluster of wooden huts that sell food and Christmas goods.
Berlin police said nine people were killed.
"I heard a big noise and then I moved on the Christmas market and saw much chaos...many injured people," Jan Hollitzer, deputy editor in chief of Berliner Morgenpost, told CNN.
"It was really traumatic."
Police cars and ambulances converged quickly on the scene as a huge security operation unfolded. The fate of the driver of the truck was not immediately clear, but Bild newspaper said he was on the run.
Emma Rushton, a tourist visiting Berlin, told CNN the truck seemed to be traveling at about 40 mph (65 Kmh). Asked how many were injured, she said that as she walked back to her hotel, she saw at least 10.
Julian Reichelt, editor in chief of Bild Berlin, said that there was currently a massive security operation under way.
"The scene certainly looks like a reminder of what we have seen in Nice," Reichelt said.
An empty bus traveling in the central West Bank came under fire Monday evening, and sustained light damage.
There were no casualties in the shooting near the settlements of Dolev and Talmon, northwest of Ramallah.
"Bullet holes were identified on the bus," the IDF said in a statement.
The army said it was searching for the perpetrator.
The attack came a day after an Israeli man was lightly injured in a drive-by shooting attack near the nearby settlement of Halamish late Sunday night.
According to reports, the attacker opened fire from a passing vehicle on the road near the Palestinian village of Aboud, close to Ramallah.
The injured man, said to be in his 20s, received medical treatment at the scene for wounds to his face from glass shards, sustained when the gunfire shattered the window on the driver's side.
He was later taken to a hospital. The vehicle sustained some damage.
Last week, a gunman opened fire on an Israeli car with two children in the back seat outside Ramallah, causing damage to the vehicle, but no injuries.
Earlier that day, a 21-year-old Palestinian man attacked a group of police officers in the Old City of Jerusalem with a screwdriver, stabbing one of them in the head and another in the upper body, police said. In response, the officers opened fire, shooting the assailant and mortally wounding him. He later died in hospital.
A spate of stabbings, car-rammings and shooting attacks by Palestinian assailants that began a year ago has waned over the last six months, though sporadic incidents have persisted.
From October 2015 to October 2016, 36 Israelis, two Americans and an Eritrean national were killed in stabbing, car-ramming and shooting attacks.
According to AFP figures, some 238 Palestinians, a Jordanian and a Sudanese migrant were also killed during the violent spurt, most of them in the course of carrying out attacks, Israel says, and many of the others in clashes with troops in the West Bank and at the Gaza border, as well as in Israeli airstrikes in the Strip.
Bus comes under fire in West Bank Document