Greenland

Of all the obscure places in the world, Greenland, the largest island in the world, is suddenly in the news.  It came up because Pres. Trump suddenly tweeted that he wanted to buy it for the USA.  Its not so absurd as it sounds and as the Danish PM said it is, after all it has the lowest population density of any country in the world with barely 60,000 people, mostly in the capital of Nuuk, that is closest to Canada.   It has incredible resources of hydroelectric power and mineral resources, much of it hard to extract because of the cold.

It was discovered by the Norwegian Vikings in the 10th century and in the Saga it was called “Green” in order to attract settlers.  Leif Erickson sailed from Greenland to Canada 500 years before Columbus “discovered” America.  Most of the population are Inuit (known to us as eskimos) and Danish settlers.  It became a Danish colony in 1814 and became autonomous (self-governing) in 2008, although it is not considered a sovereign country and is still a province of Denmark. Pres. Truman soon after WWII and amidst the Cold War was the first President to consider buying Greenland, but a large US base was established at Thule in southern Greenland and has been there ever since.

Pres. Trump was due to begin a State visit to Denmark in two weeks, but after the Danish response to his suggestion to buy Greenland, he took offense and has cancelled the visit.  This is unfortunate since Denmark has been a good ally of the US for a long time.  These imaginative ideas that Trump gets and publicizes are not so stupid, since buying Alaska from Russia turned out be a bright idea after all, not to mention the Louisiana purchase from France.  I bet they’d like to have them back.

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The Sh’ite Apocalyptic Vision

The deep enmity of Shi’ite Iran towards the US and Israel does not come from the usual political and economic reasons as many suppose, according to an article in The Jerusalem Post by Lela Gilbert entitled “Iran’s aggression and the Shia apocalypse” (https://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Irans-aggression-and-the-Shiite-apocalypse-598904).  In fact it comes from the religion of Shi’ism that is deeply ingrained in the culture of the Iranian nation and which has an apocalyptic vision of the future.  

Shi’ism results from the beginning of Islam, when after Mohammed died in 632 ce he had not named a successor.  As a result, his immediate followers decided to elect chief among them Abu Bakr as Caliph, both as spiritual and temporal leader.  These became the Sunni Muslims. However, there were many who thought his successor should be a blood relative, and his only surviving blood relative was his grandson Ali, son of his daughter Fatimah and son-in-law Hussein. His followers became the Shia

After Mohammed’s death the Sunni Muslims raised an army and began their series of conquests, including Damascus in 634, Jerusalem in 639, and North Africa in 652.  The inevitable Sunni-Shia clash came at Karbala in what is now Iraq in 680 when the Shia army under Ali were defeated by a much larger Sunni army under the Caliph.  From then on the Shia were a persecuted heretical minority of Islam that developed its own culture.

Although there are several sub-sects of Shia Islam, the majority and that practiced in Iran is what is known as “Twelver” Islam.  They believe that after the death of Ali there were 10 other Imams, who were his descendants and for the most part were secret.  But, the Twelth Imam is the Mahdi or savior (obviously derived from the Judaic concept of the Messiah that Christianity also adopted) known as the Hidden Imam. The Twelver Shia, i.e. the Iranians and their proxies, believe that at  the end of days when the hidden Imam appears there will be be an apocalyptic bloody conflict between the Muslim believers (i.e the Shia) and the infidels, which of course the Shia will win.

According to the article by Lela Gilbert, Iranian foreign policy is specifically devoted to bringing about the conditions of this apocalypse that they expect to win and defeat Israel, the US and the West in a cataclysmic bloody conflict.  While many in the West are looking for Iran to show rational behavior, the Iranians are in fact waiting for the Mahdi to appear.  So when the crowds in Tehran shout “Death to Israel”, “Death to America,” they really mean it!

 

Corruption in UNRWA

UNRWA was established in 1949 as a temporary UN organization to support the Palestinian refugees.  At that time there were ca, 700,000 refugees.  Seventy (yes 70!) years later, it is not only still in existence, but because, unlike all other refugees in the world, they include all offspring as so-called refugees, the number of dependents they support has mushroomed to 5.3 million.  This of course has led to the establishment of a large international organization that is closely associated with the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza and which has become extremely corrupt.  Because of the close ties to the Arab world, this corruption has been over-looked and ignored, until now.

Finally, the UN Secty. Gen. Anthony Guterres has requested a Report of allegations of nepotism, intimidation, bullying and sexual misconduct as well as financial mismanagement and corruption.  The investigation started in 2018 and is due to be concluded and published soon.  A ten-page initial summary was leaked to Al Jazeera and as a result two of the primary officials accused have resigned, namely Deputy Commissioner General Sandra Mitchell and Chief of Staff Hakam Shawan.  Two others accused, the Commissioner General Pierre Krankhenbuhl and Senior Adviser Maria Mohammedi, are still in place.

Because of allegations of financial mismanagement and ties to Hamas, the US under Pres. Trump started last year to reduce its m$135 contributions to UNRWA, and now the US has stopped all contributions.  Until now the US has paid ca. 25% of the budget of the UNRWA for all 70 years.  The Arab States have paid very little towards UNRWA, but the Palestine Authority has requested them to step up and replace the lost revenue from the US.  However, not only have they not done so, but other countries have begun to see the true situation, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland have all stopped payments to UNRWA pending the Secty. General’s Report and any further outcomes, such as necessary reforms.

However, many people fear that the corruption is so endemic and pervasive that it is possible that the UNRWA’s mandate will not be renewed when it comes up for consideration at the next meeting of the UN.  Of course, the Palestinians have come out with comments about a humanitarian crisis and as usual threatened future violence if UNRWA is not renewed and funded.  But, they have been receiving large donations (more than any other refugee group) from many nations for 70 years and they have in no way done anything to establish organizations that could improve their economic conditions, they have been content to accept welfare and live off handouts from the other nations of the world.   If Israel could in 70 years go from a destitute nation of immigrants and refugees to a thriving modern affluent society, why not the Palestinians?  There are several answers to that question which I will leave to the readers to consider.

The best outcome is if when the full truth is known, UNRWA will be disbanded, and so-called Palestinians and their descendants in countries surrounding Israel will become citizens of those countries (namely Syria and Lebanon; in Jordan they are already  citizens and therefore should not be classified as refugees!), as is required of all other refugees.  Those so-called refugees living within the boundaries of what was the Palestine Mandate (in other words not refugees at all) should be settled where they are and start to live normally as everybody else does.  Such an outcome would greatly improve the chances of an eventual negotiated settlement.  Continuing to support the Palestinians thru UNRWA has meant that they have had no real pressure to improve their own situation or deal with Israel, it has perpetuated the conflict.

Who Needs Enemies Here?

I strongly support our government’s decision to bar those enemies of Israel, US Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar, from visiting our country. As such I strongly disagree with the wholly negative analysis by the editorial staff of The Jerusalem Post, including: “Tlaib and Omar Outsmart Israel” by Herb Keinon, “Dem Leaders Disappointing decision,” by Omri Nahmias and “Why Israel errs in barring Congresswomen,” by David Brinn.  Surely such analysts could find something positive about this decision?  If the Government had allowed them to enter Israel they would only have used their visit for anti-Israel propaganda purposes that would have had long-term consequences.  This is the dignified way to go, we have shown them we have sovereignty and we will not allow them to use us as the object of their negativity and derision. This was the right decision.(this was published as letter to the editor in The Jerusalem Post, today)

Further, when Tlaib specifically asked the Minister of Interior to allow her to enter the West Bank in order to visit her grandmother who is 91 years old, purely on humanitarian grounds, he agreed.  I think this was also the right decision, since she gave an undertaking not to carry out any pro-boycott propaganda while here.  But, after he approved her visit she turned around and rejected it, saying she would not be controlled by the occupation.  This is nonsense, since she had already stated she would not carry out political activities while here on a  purely humanitarian visit.  Obviously she got cold feet, and was probably told by her extreme left buddies that it would not look good for her if she came and cooperated with the hated Israel in any way, even for a humanitarian reason.

Good riddance, I say.  Who needs such enemies here, the whole point of having sovereignty is that we can decide who we want to allow in or not.  every country does it, so why should we let in enemies to make propaganda.  Think of them as liberal fascists, even if they are members of Congress.  Its true Pres. Trump put pressure on PM Netanyahu not to let them in, but once again Trump was right.  Never give any advantage to our enemies.

Criminal Negligence in the Air?

This article is based on a detailed investigation by the Panorama program of the BBC, carried out by Richard Bilton, of the crashes of Boeing 737 MAX planes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed a total of 330 people.   In both cases the same scenario occurred, namely the nose of the plane repeatedly pointed downwards, forcing the pilots to try to pull up in order to regain control.  However, in both cases they were unable to do so and the plane crashed into the ground soon after takeoff killing everyone aboard.  Neither plane was old or had any apparent defect.  So what caused the crashes?

Unknown to most pilots and not included in the plane’s several hundred page manual, the planes were equipped with a new supposedly safety system, called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) that is a feature of the Boeing 737 MAX computer flight control system that attempts to provide automatic pitch control of the plane.  In other words, if the plane is rising too fast the MCAS is supposed to level it off.  But, in fact the system, which was not thoroughly tested before deployment, tends to pitch the plane downwards when it is in level flight.  Thus after takeoff in both cases, the planes’s pitch oscillated dangerously leading to the crash.

The official Boeing response to the crashes was that it was a series of events with no one single cause.  This is not what the investigations carried out so far reveal.  In other words, the MCAS system is considered the direct cause and the fact that the pilots of the MAX had little or no idea what was happening and what MCAS was doing resulted in catastrophe because they were unable to deal with the repeated violent downward tilt of the plane.

The question is not only how Boeing could allow such a potentially dangerous system to be installed on their planes that takes over from the pilots with almost no warning, but how the FAA, the US Federal Aviation Administration, could have approved these planes as airworthy, and why Boeing, knowing they had installed this system, did not immediately ground the MAX fleet after the first Indonesian crash, thus condemning a further 149 passengers to death?  These issues will be fought out in court, and several criminal and civil cases are pending.  All I can say is it is a shock to all of us who fly and assume that our safety is given first priority.  The outcome for Boeing is that their whole MAX fleet is now grounded and they are in a very difficult financial situation.  The moral is safety first and always! 

Idlib

Idlib is the province in northwestern Syria that is the last surviving bastion not yet conquered by the Syrian Army with the support of its Russian and Iranian allies.  Idlib is complex because it adjoins the Turkish border and so Turkey also has troops in Idlib, mainly because they seek to prevent the Kurdish forces of the YPG from retaining territory and forming an autonomous region there.  Also Idlib is the last stronghold of the Islamist groups that supported ISIS, in this case the Tahrir al Sham group that is defending its last positions.

Last weekend saw a significant victory for the Syrian Army when it captured the town of al-Habeet.  Idlib has been independent of control of the Syrian regime of Assad since 2015 and they have been mounting an attack for at least 3 months but have not made much progress.  The UN and other countries have warned Syria not to carry out mass bombings of civilians, since there are many refugees there who have fled other regions of Syria that have been conquered by the Syrian Army.

Neither the Syrians, the Iranians nor the Russians are known for their humanitarian actions in war, on the contrary.  It is estimated that ca. 500,000 Syrians have been killed in barrel-bombing, chemical weapons attacks, and by torture and execution by the Syrian secret police, the Mukhabarat.  They and the ISIS compete for how ruthless and sadistic they can be in murdering innocent people. Also the Syrians and their allies have been deliberately bombing hospitals (where are the liberal Western human rights demonstrations against that).

Idlib may be the last stage of the Syrian civil war, that unexpectedly the Syrian regime forces won, although they would not have been able to without the strong support of Iran and Russia.  Now that so many outside forces are engaged in Syria, including Russia, Iran, Turkey, Israel and the US, that supports the Kurds and their Sunni Arab allies who hold the former ISIS region of eastern Syria, there is no likely final solution to the future of Syria in sight.

 

Hong Kong

What is the true significance of the ongoing civilian riots in Hong Kong?  Twenty two years ago when the British gave up Hong Kong to mainland Communist China, it was agreed that there would be a one country-two systems agreement, namely that Hong Kong would become part of Communist China, but it would tolerate Hong Kong continuing on its path of local democracy and capitalism.  One reason the Communist Govt agreed to this was that it was in their interest to maintain the connection of Hong Kong to the rest of the capitalist world as a gateway for the development of Communist China itself. 

But, over time, the Communists could not let things be, they had to gradually intervene in the affairs of Hong Kong and ensure the appointment of their candidate as the leader of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam.  Recently they went further by having her pass a law that would allow Hong Kong residents to be extradited and  tried for crimes in China itself.  This is a serious breach of the original Hong Kong agreement, but that does not of course worry  the Communists. What started out as small peaceful demonstrations against the new law have become major violent confrontations that have included so many people that the Hong Kong police/security forces are overwhelmed.  Now the demonstrators have taken over the Hong Kong airport, the seventh busiest in the world and essentially shut down Kong Kong.

This has now become in effect a struggle for the continuation of democracy in Hong Kong, versus the autocratic system in mainland China.  The Chinese Govt. has massed its forces on the Hong Kong border and is threatening to invade.  If it does this could be a blood bath and the fate of Communist China itself could be in the balance.  There is no doubt they can crush the opposition in Hong Kong, but can they survive the long term effects of killing their own people for the sake of political control.,