Tankers Attacked near the Straits of Hormuz

For years Iran has been threatening to attack tankers transiting the Straits of Hormuz, the choke point in the Persian Gulf, effectively closing it to international oil transport.  This would be a catastrophe since 20% of the world’s oil from the Gulf (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait) flows through that Strait.  Now, two tankers have been attacked and set on fire in the Gulf of Oman east of the straits, possibly due to limpet mines or missiles. But, Iran adamantly denies that they were responsible and pleads innocence.  Does it really sound feasible, that some other force, not known for ever threatening to attack tankers, would do so in order to get Iran into trouble?  Would anyone with any sense ever attempt that?  It is not believable.  We can only conclude that Iran is carrying out these attacks, as US Secty. of Defense Mike Pompeo stated, and that Iran is trying to avoid the consequences by pleading innocence.  

Once we accept that scenario, then the prospects look bleak.  That Iran would do this while Japanese PM Shinzo Abe is actually in Tehran on a State Visit, in order to mediate an agreement between Iran and the US to avoid a military clash between them, shows the degree of cynicism that Iran displays.  In addition, Supreme Leader Khomenei told Abe that it is beneath him to send a message to Trump.

On news of the attacks on the two tankers, the price of crude oil shot up by 4% and  remains steady awaiting future events.  Many oil companies are reviewing their supply chain and looking to see how they can manage without the flow of oil from the Gulf should the situation worsen.  If the US does strike back at Iranian facilities in response to these attacks, there could be a war, and Iran might well strike at Israel.  The consequences could be disastrous, for Iran and the world, considering the oil situation.

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Immigration: The Case of Austria

The first speaker to the MEF group in Vienna was Martin Engelberg, precisely one of those Jews who remained in Austria after the War, grew up there, and is now a member of Parliament for the People’s Party (PP).  He is active in the Jewish Community and has never found this to be a problem.  He noted that in Europe there is a move to the right with the upsurge of the Natl. Rally of Marine Le Pen in France, Victor Orban’s Fidusz Party in Hungary, and Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy.  Also in Germany the centrist parties lost in the EU elections and the Greens were the big winners.  Note that immigration is not a major issue for the Greens.

Austrians have never owned up to their responsibility for the Holocaust.  Their excuse is that they were integrated into the German Reich and had no choice, but this neglects the fact that the Austrians enthusiastically supported the Anschluss and were virulently anti-Semitic.  On the right is the Austrian Freedom Party (FP), that was formerly the party of Chancellor Kreisky, who had 4 former Nazis in his cabinet.  Then there was the  Waldheim scandal in 1986, but after that experience they took steps to change and now the FP is supposedly free of anti-Semitism.  For 1.5 years there has been a coalition agreement between the PP and the FP.  But right now that has collapsed due to the corruption case.

While we were in Austria, the Government collapsed due to the release of a video made two years before, of Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the FP, having a drunken dinner with several people posing as Russian contacts, and agreeing to do favors for them for money.  This caused the coalition to collapse and the Government to resign. The question is, why did the makers of the video hold it for 2 years?  The leader of the PP, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called for new elections.  Some, such as Christian Zeitz, who spoke to us at dinner,  speculate that he engineered the revelation of the video, so that in the next election the FP will receive many fewer votes and the PP will be able to form a Government without them.

Regarding the immigration issue, the Govt. of Kurz did allow a small number of Muslims to settle in Austria.  Out of a total population of ca. 8 million there are ca. 600,000 Muslims (mainly Turks). The Govt. did enact legislation to control the situation, and is a leader in that respect.  The Islam Law forbids foreign financing of Muslim activities and Imams (since Erdogan in Turkey was trying to control them) and requires all Muslim teaching to be carried out in German.   Because of their refusal of accept these conditions, some communities were closed.  They also forbid the use of burkas and radical literature.  Also, immigrants must work.  Recently, they have also banned the use of headscarves in elementary schools, because it is a clear sign of radicalism.  Since the closing of Austria’s borders there is no more immigration, the Balkan route is closed.  Germany is in fact paying off Erdogan to stop the flow of immigrants.   Also, Italy has cracked down on traffickers who were actively pumping immigrants into southern Italy.  They area now heading for Spain.

Chancellor Kurz of Austria is friendly towards the Jewish community and respects Israel.  He has gone on record as supporting the security needs of Israel and also maintains friendly relations with some Arab States.  Austria is more friendly towards Israel than the EU, but how this will work out in the future is uncertain.

We also heard presentations by: Eric Frey, a journalist educated in Princeton, who is Senior Editor of Der Standard, a centrist newspaper in Austria.  He is Jewish and was born in Austria. And Dr. Thomas Grischany, former aide to the Austrian Interior Minister and teacher at the Webster University in Vienna.  He described the situation of Muslim migration into Austria and the EU and suggested possible solutions that might avoid the Islamization of European society.

 

 

Immigration: The Case of Hungary II

John O’Sullivan, who is a former editor of the National Review and now makes his home in Budapest, gave a very spirited and articulate presentation to the MEF group.  He explained two main topics, why Hungary under Victor Orban is different from all other countries in the EU, and why he moved there.  In relation to Victor Orban he has written widely on the subject. and just to be very brief, he regards him as a new form of national conservative, in other words on the right, but no longer a protest or populist movement (such as the Brexit Party in the UK, or the United Rally in France), but both a moderate nationalist (not radical) and a free market supporter (see https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/orbans-switch-back-to-the-center-right/).  Some would say Victor Orban has gone too far in becoming less democratic and more authoritarian.  But, that is a matter for discussion.  Daniel Pipes summarized it nicely by saying that Orban doesn’t want to leave the EU (like the UK), but wants to take it over!

We discovered that some politically conservative people who are fed up with the leftist control of their countries, with the mass immigration of hostile elements and who seek greater security and quiet, are moving to Hungary,.  Many are now finding a haven in Hungary, and we met two Germans who have done this, escaping politically motivated hostility and seeking improved security.  The main problem is that you have to learn Hungarian!

Maria Schmidt is a historian and former adviser to PM Orban.  She initiated the Terror Museum in Budapest that documents the torture used by both the Nazi Gestapo and the Soviet KGB.  After WWI, Hungary lost 2/3 of its territory as well as groups of Hungarian-speaking peoples, especially to Romania.  But, it became a much more homogeneous and quieter country.  With the collapse of Communism there were the first partially free elections in 1980.  But, the liberals formed a coalition with the communists, for which they have never been forgiven.  Since 2008, Victor Orban has promoted a market economy and has increased his majority at each election since.  He wants to keep Hungary prosperous without mass immigration. Hungarians are determined that there be no repeat of living under Turkish rule! Also, Hungarians have never had colonies in Africa or the Middle East and do not see why they should have to accept migrants from there.  She pointed out that Jews in Hungary before WWII were part of the society, not separate as in Poland, and many more remained in Hungary than in any other country after the Holocaust.  Victor Orban is pro-Israel and philo-Semitic.  It is clear that he hopes Jews and Israel will support him in his campaign, and that is why he visited Israel and met with PM Netanyahu recently.  Daniel Pipes pointed out that Hungary and Israel are unique in having both conservative governments and increased population growth compared to all other Western countries.

When we met Rabbi Koves, I asked him about the controversy over the planned Hungarian Holocaust Museum that historian Maria Schmidt was supposed to be curating, but her interpretations were challenged by a group of eminent Holocaust scholars.  He would only comment that the matter was under review and would be resolved soon.  I did not raise this issue with Maria Schmidt, but today in the Jerusalem Post there is an article that reports that Maria Schmidt has been removed by agreement with the Hungarian Government as a curator of the “House of Fates” museum. 

Next we heard from Peter Kreko, Director of the Political Capital Institute, a centrist, who assured us that anti-Semitism is not a live issue in Hungary.  The Jews in Hungary are in no danger, there is no Muslim minority, no immigrants and no Islamic radicalism.  There is anti-Semitism in public opinion, like the Jews control the economy, but it is unfocused.  After the economic collapse of 2009 the Jobbik party was anti-Semitic, but it was replaced by Victor Orban and Fidusz, and the government now has good relations with the Jewish community and with Israel.  He refuted the claims that there is no free press or a lack of democracy in Hungary.  

We also heard from Boris Kalnocky, the correspondent for Die Welt German newspaper in Hungary, and Kent Ekeroth, a former member of the Swedish Parliament now living in Budapest.  Purely for reasons of space I will have to skip describing their interesting presentations.

 

 

Anniversaries – June 5, 1944 and 1967

Two anniversaries that occur on June 5, in 1944 and 1967, mark the beginning of hope and survival for me.  June 5, 1944, was the original D-day, that was put off for one day because of bad weather in the English Channel, but was in fact the day the Allied invasion of France began.  June 5, 1967, was the beginning of the Six-Day war that resulted in the destruction of the Egyptian and Syrian air forces on the ground and the successful war of survival for the Jews in their Homeland, Israel.

Today there was much commemoration and celebration in France, on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, with the leaders of the Allied countries, the USA, UK, Canada, France and others, taking part. These landings were a great armada, a huge gamble, but ultimately a successful one.  They marked the beginning of the end of Nazism and Hitler.  On the eastern front the Battle for Stalingrad that ended on Feb 2, 1943, marked the reversal in military fortunes there.   It took just over a year from the Allied landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, until  the signing of the German surrender on Sept 2, 1945.  The landings and the capture of Normandy cost ca. 200,000 Allied soldier’s lives.  A terrible cost, as shown in the many military cemeteries that dot the region inland from the beaches.  Note that Jews fought in all the Allied armies, and especially in the Red Army, that included ca. 500,000 Jews.

But, there will be no international or even Israeli commemoration of the Six-Day War of June 1967, that nevertheless changed the future of the Middle East and of Jews forever.  In June, 1967, the Egyptians, Syrians and Jordanians formed an alliance to destroy Israel.  Israel was alone in facing this planned onslaught.  At first even the USA under Pros. Nixon would not support Israel.  Once the Egyptians closed the Straits of Tiran in May to block the port of Eilat and the UN left the Sinai peninsula (contrary to international agreements), it was clear that there would be war.  The Arab world was in a state of euphoria, believing Pres. Nasser that Israel would soon be destroyed,  But, Israel’s Air Force struck first, destroying 90% of the Egyptian Air Force on the ground.  After that it was a large mopping up operation in which the IDF defeated the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armies and were on their way to Cairo, Damascus and Amman.

Just as the D-Day landings meant that Britain was safe from Nazi invasion, so the Six-Day war meant that Israel was safe from destruction by the armies of the surrounding Arab States.  Yes, there were further wars, in Europe in 1944-5 and in Israel in 1973 and 1982, but the Six-Day War was the turning point in Israel’s survival.  Without the brave men who fought and died in Normandy in June, 1944 and the brave Jews who fought and died in the Six Day War in 1967, I would not be here writing this to you today.   

 

What is the Jewish Interest in Europe?

I am a Zionist who realized my life-long ambition to become an Israeli.  But, I grew up in the UK and I have an interest in Europe, and even as an American citizen I want to see Europe prosper and be a stable democratic region.  However, I have to recognize that the EU is politically liberal-leftist dominated and is not only anti-Israel, but also tends to be anti-Semitic.  The long-term interest of European Jews, Israel and America is that the EU not remain dominated by this leftist agenda.  Also, that it not be swamped by a  liberal-inspired wave of Muslim-dominated immigration, that has already begun with the immigration of more than a million migrants into Germany and Sweden and elsewhere in Europe. The primary interest of the Jews, Israel and America is to ensure that Europe not be overcome by a tsunami of Muslim immigration.

Jews tend to be liberal and tend to identify with immigrants, because after-all weren’t we immigrants once.  But, it is very important to emphasize the differences between then and now. First of all, the vast majority of the current immigrants are economic migrants, not because of war or persecution, while the Jews of the past were definitely driven to migrate because of constant and extreme persecution.  Secondly, over 90% of the migrants entering Europe are not Syrian or Iraqi refugees fleeing war.  They are mainly Afghanis, Libyans, Nigerians, Somalis and so on.  Yes, among them there is a minority of legitimate refugees seeking asylum (estimates are about 5%).  There are international protocols for processing all migrants to exclude economic migrants which no country is obliged to accept.  Why were these protocols not followed??

Turkey was the primary country of entry for most of the migrants in the 2015 wave that swept into Europe.  Why were these refugees not registered there as the first country  entered, as required by law?  The answer to this is clearly political, in fact Pres. Erdogan of Turkey used the migrants to blackmail Europe.  Also, at first Greece failed to register them, no country wanted to be their hosts.  Seeing the flood of migrants arriving at their borders, several countries, including Serbia and Hungary set up border fences to keep them out, contrary to EU (Schengen Agreement) policy.  Hungary allowed ca. 450,000 migrants to pass through its territory in trains as long as they were only in transit to Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel accepted them. 

Note that Merkel accepted a million refugees into Germany without consulting anyone, not any other country, not the EU, nor even her own government!  She felt it was necessary to avoid a humanitarian crisis, to show liberal concern, perhaps in an over-compensation of guilt for what Germany had done to the Jews.  A cynic might argue that Germany exchanged the Jews (who they murdered) for the Muslims (that they welcomed).  But, this is having major repercussions for Germany and all of Europe.  Since these migrants are not easily assimilable, they have a high reproduction rate, they are not easily educated (many don’t speak German), and they are mainly young unemployed males and crime and rape statistics have sky-rocketed.  This is not merely a biased opinion, look at the rape statistics for Sweden, that went from one of the lowest in the West to one of the highest in a few years, look at the rape-fest that occurred at Cologne train station in 2016, look at what is happening in Northern England (Rotherham and elsewhere). 

But, beyond these concerns is a far more dangerous one, the presence of a large and growing Muslim minority in Europe.  There are now ca. 5-10 times the number of Muslims compared to former Jews in some of these European countries.  Altogether there are an estimated 19 million Muslims in Europe (not counting those in Bosnia and elsewhere).  Further, Jews not only assimilated but contributed mightily to European culture and civilization, think of Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Stefan Zweig, Karl Marx, Paul Ehrlich, Moses Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn, Fritz Haber, Heinrich Heine, Max Born, Walter Rathenau and the list goes on.  Does anyone foresee the Muslims making similar contributions?  It is in fact a tenet of Islam, one of the famous “Ten pillars” that it is incumbent on all Muslims to ensure that the country/place he lives in is governed by Islamic (Sharia) law.  Note this is not the same as a group being governed by its own religious laws (such as even the Jews had), this is the government/law of the country!  And this is not only extremists, but any believing Muslim (ask any Muslim you know if they want Sharia law in your country?)

The increase in anti-Semitism in Europe can be related directly to the increase in Muslim migration.  Most of the terrible anti-Semitic acts in France for example have been perpetrated by Muslims, including the murders of Ilan Halimi, Lucie Attal, Mireille Knoll, Sarah Halimi (no relative) and 7 others murdered.  However,most of the perpetrators in these cases have been released (the judge in charge of these cases may be Muslim).

In 2005, Bat Ye’or wrote “Eurabia: The Europe-Arab Axis, ” foreseeing the problem.  The only way to avoid this problem is that there develops in Europe a series of conservative parties that are both anti-migration and yet civilized and committed to protecting European democratic culture and minority rights.  Some of the central and eastern European countries could hardly be said to have a long history of democracy.  But, that is the most important value they must protect against the kind of violent authoritarian control that one finds in all Arab and Muslim states (with few exceptions).  Under Arab/Muslim culture an opponent is considered an enemy and the only way to oppose him is to kill him (look what happened to the so-called “Arab Spring,” currently Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia are failed states).  So finally it comes down to this.  It is in the Judeo-Christian interest to ensure that Muslims do not take over Europe.  I will discuss how this might be achieved in future blogs, based on the recent MEF trip I attended run by Daniel Pipes, with the primary theme of Muslim immigration into Europe. 

 

Nationalism

There is an upsurge of right-wing parties in Europe that are gaining popular support.  This includes Germany, Austria, Hungary, France and several other countries.   This is often blamed on the current immigration crisis of poor, displaced refugees from areas of conflict, particularly Muslims from Africa and the Middle East, trying to get into these countries illegally.   As many people have pointed out, there is cause for concern, because these parties are generally Islamophobic and often anti-Semitic,  However, at the same time, these countries and these parties are often pro-Israel.

The reasons for this are complex but include: 1. These countries (often from Eastern Europe) see Israel as a bulwark of European civilization against the tide of Muslim conquest and take-over.  2. Israel is a small, technically advanced and prosperous country that they can do business with and in some ways hope to emulate. 3. There are some countries and parties (particularly in Germany) that are trying to be nationalistic and yet have guilt over their terrible past and try to assuage this by being pro-Israel.

Here I would like to point out that most Israelis can be considered as nationalistic, very proud and supportive of our country Israel and prepared to defend it against all odds.  It is also true that many Americans, including Jews, are very patriotic about the USA.  My conclusion is that “nationalism” per se is not necessarily bad or wrong, as long as it does not segue into super- or hyper-nationalism, as in Nazism or Fascism, in which a party takes over a country, is convinced of its own superiority over other nationalities, and becomes militaristic.  This distinction is very important, and can be exemplified by the French National Front, that was openly anti-Semitic under its founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, but his daughter Marine Le Pen who has taken over the Party has striven to modernize it and exclude anti-Semitism from its ranks (some understandably might be skeptical, but there has been a major rift between the father and daughter).

This week I am going on a visit to several European capitals with an American group.  One of the main issues raised will no doubt be, how anti-Semitic and how pro-Israel are these countries and their right-wing parties?  I hope to be able to report back on this and other issues upon my return.

Sending Messages to Iran

The transfer of a major US strike force consisting of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, with its complement of 130 planes and 10 ships, through the Suez canal to the region of the Persian Gulf, is a clear message to the leaders of Iran.   It follows a statement by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei in which he gave Europe an ultimatum of 30 days to make concessions to Iran or they will restart their nuclear weapons program, including increasing enriched uranium production.  Concurrently the US increased the sanctions against Iran, that has immobilized their banks and has caused a major financial crisis.

Ar the same time, in a relatively conciliatory reply, Pres. Trump called on Pres. Rouhani of Iran to enter talks with him in order to overcome their differences.  But, he has not taken the possibility of military action off the table if Iran indeed does restart its nuclear program against their agreement with a group of Western countries and against several UNSC resolutions.  So at the moment things are in the balance.  Will Iran, according to their leader’s rhetoric and demonstrations by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), ignore Trump’s warnings and remain recalcitrant, or will they opt for negotiations with the US?

If I were to bet, I would say that Iran cannot climb down, even against a show of superior military strength.  It would be humiliating for them and would in a way be a halt to their vaunted Shia revolutionary drive.  If push comes to shove, I could predict a military show-down between Iran and the US and its allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia.  The US and these allies cannot accept Iran achieving a nuclear weapon and the time to prevent it is sooner rather than when it is too late.