Iran’s ambitions threaten to ignite the next major Middle East conflict

Dave Sharma
The Australian
February 13, 2018

Last weekend there was high drama on Israel’s border with Syria across the Golan Heights.

In the early hours of Saturday, an advanced Iranian drone penetrated Israeli airspace. Within minutes, the drone was intercepted and destroyed by an Israeli attack helicopter. The Israeli air force then conducted a strike inside Syria, destroying the mobile command vehicle that guided the drone. On its return, the Israeli F16 fighter jet was hit by Syrian air defence batteries. The jet crashed inside Israel and both crew members ejected. In retaliation, Israel struck against 12 further targets inside Syria, including three air defence batteries and four Iranian positions.

Given the amount of conflict already under way in the region, not least in Syria and Yemen, this may seem like a small incident. But its significance is much larger.

For several years now, Iran has been exploiting the opportunity of the Syrian civil war to build a presence along Israel’s northern borders. Iran has established a significant military footprint inside Syria, sending military advisers, “volunteer” Shia militias and hundreds of fighters from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Indeed it was Iranian ground forces, coupled with Russian air power, that rescued Bashar al-Assad’s regime from near oblivion two years ago and have since restored it to the strongest force inside Syria.

Iran also has used its base inside Syria to funnel increasingly advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, its military proxy in Lebanon.

Hezbollah today is a formidable military force. It possesses tens of thousands of rockets, including several advanced, medium-range, Iranian-made mis­siles that can strike targets anywhere inside Israel. Though Israel frequently destroys Hezbollah-bound weapons transfers in transit, this effort depends entirely on the quality of intelligence. Inevitably, some shipments make it through.

Finally, Iran has been building military infrastructure and facilities inside Lebanon and Syria, designed to threaten Israel.

The command post that launched the Iranian drone was one such facility. Active attempts are under way to establish factory production lines for precision-guided missiles inside Lebanon.

Iran’s goal is the ability to project power and make its presence felt throughout the Middle East, and to create assets that can threaten Israel. It is seeking to build a land corridor stretching from Tehran to the Mediterranean to do this. Israel, quite justifiably, is alarmed by Iran’s ambitions, and is taking steps to frustrate Iranian goals.

The two nations have been engaged in a quiet, low-simmer conflict for several months now. Israel frequently attacks Iranian targets inside Syria, including advanced weapons shipments bound for Hezbollah. Iran, meanwhile, continues to probe Israel’s defences and test its readiness and red lines.

As Iranian efforts to entrench its presence become more advanced and more aggressive, the tempo of these clashes is accelerating and conflict is spilling out in the open, as it did last weekend.

As the Islamic State-Daesh presence in Syria is slowly vanquished, the question of what takes its place becomes more and more pressing, with outside powers increasingly intervening to shape the new Syrian landscape.

Russia wants to retain a client in Damascus and access to air and naval facilities. Turkey wants to prevent a de facto Kurdish state emerging along the length of its southern border. And Iran wants to retain a permanent military presence inside Syria.

Iran’s regional ambitions are alarming not just Israel but most of the Sunni Arab states in the region.

While crowds in Tehran, Damascus and Beirut were cheering the first downing of an Israeli fighter jet since 1982, you can be certain that in Riyadh, Cairo, Amman and Abu Dhabi leaders were (albeit behind closed doors) cheering the fact Israel gave Iran a bloody nose.

This is the new fault line at work in the Middle East: a Sunni Arab-Israeli bloc seeking to constrain Iran from redrawing the regional map in its favour.

Though they lack formal diplomatic ties, behind the scenes there is a great deal of co-ordination under way between Israel and countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which suddenly find themselves sharing existential security interests.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has ceased to be the defining feature of the region’s security. Instead it is Iran’s ambitions — and the moves and countermoves that accompany them — that are driving regional developments.

The Iranian nuclear deal, while it succeeded in constraining Tehran’s nuclear program, has not managed to alter Iranian ambitions or behaviour.

And this behaviour is threatening to ignite the next major conflict in the Middle East, one that will involve several major powers, and that inevitably will embroil Australia.

Dave Sharma is a director at Kelly+Partners and was the Australian ambassador to Israel from 2013 until June last year.

NSW Labor leader to address February plenum

By Rebecca Dukes

IF Luke Foley is elected Premier of New South Wales on March 23 next year, the law against incitement to racist violence will be overhauled.

His public pledge to strengthen the law will be the topic of his address to the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies plenum next week. 

A week after the NSW cabinet rejected a proposed bill to overhaul Section 20d of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act on November 30 last year, NSW Opposition Leader Foley announced that within 100 days of being elected Premier in March 2019, he would fix the law.

Not a single person has been charged under this law since it was introduced about 30 years ago – this despite a public speech by the spiritual leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Sydney calling for death to Jews.

The Board of Deputies is part of the Keep NSW Safe alliance of 31 communities and prominent leaders which has been calling on the State Government to fix the legislation. Former Attorney General Gabrielle Upton promised to amend the law after acknowledging that it was broken.

It was her successor as AG, Mark Speakman, who took the proposed new law to the cabinet last November, but it was thrown out.

Foley was elected Member for Auburn in 2015 following after years in the NSW Legislative Council. He was appointed Leader of the Opposition in 2015.

He recently joined 200 people at the State Parliament’s annual pre-Chanukah celebration and quoted the 19th Century NSW parliamentarian Sir Julian Salomans saying: “I am a Jew. I was born a Jew … and I should be a poltroon and a coward, as well as a fool, if I were not proud of belonging to a race which has given an Isaiah to the world; the Psalms of David, and all the mighty mysteries of the Bible, upon which the civilisation, the consolation, and the happiness of the world depend.”

Addressing a Shabbat service and dinner hosted by the Board of Deputies at The Great Synagogue in March 2017, he said: “Labor will continue to do everything in its power to protect the rights of the Jewish community and to fight against anyone who strives to deprive them of those rights. Labor is pushing for a new offence to replace section 20D of the Anti-Discrimination Act, which has proven to be totally ineffective in preventing people from spreading incitement to racial violence, much of it directed towards the Jewish community.”

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies plenum will be held on Tuesday 20 February at 7:30pm in Darlinghurst. Inquiries: 9360 1600.

Rebecca Dukes is the Saul Symonds Intern at the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

Holocaust lessons not learnt as Anti-Semitism still alive and well

Rowan Dean
The Courier-Mail
January 29, 2018

“NOW!” he yelled frantically. “Jump!” His sister hesitated, a look of terror on her face – but then he grabbed her and suddenly she was flying through the air.

They both hit the ground hard. “Run!” he gasped, almost pulling the socket out of her arm.

They scrambled towards the woods. She was 8. He was 14. Both had blond hair and ice-blue eyes.

Prisoners line up at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during World War II. For many, it was a fate worse than death.

Thanks to their mother’s side of the family, their skin was as pale as the snow that covered the village that only days before they had called home.

He heard a shout. “Jew!” The boy grabbed his sister’s hand tighter.

Crack! The sound split the air, and she fell forward. He frantically struggled to pick her up, but she was dead.

Crack! He tore his eyes from her, turned and ran for his life. His sister’s death would torment him with guilt until the day he died an old man. Even though, logic dictates, by getting her off the train to Birkenau he saved her from a fate even worse than death.

That’s just one of the millions – well, around six million, actually – of tragic, heartbreaking, horrific personal stories of Holocaust death or survival. Many of the stories have been told; most never will be.

Not surprisingly, many Jews who escaped the Nazi industrial-scale policy of murder can’t even bring themselves to talk about it. It’s too painful. The policy, incidentally, was aided by the cowardice and anti-Semitism of everyday Christian Europeans.

Indeed, one of the most horrific tragedies is that there were Jews who survived the years of terror and evil at the death camps and made it back to their homes in Poland and Russia after Liberation only to be butchered by their own townsfolk in Jew-hating pogroms.

Barbed wire fences at the Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz. It is widely agreed it must never be allowed to happen again. Picture: AP

Saturday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, with services held across the world to honour those who died and to recall the stories of courage among the overwhelming tales of grief and despair.

And, of course, every Holocaust service, museum, film or memorial reaches the same conclusion: this must never be allowed to happen again.

But could it happen again? Well, you decide. Because you cannot protect the patient if you haven’t got rid of the disease.

And the age-old disease of anti-Semitism is very much alive and well throughout the modern world, helped along by governments and even supranational bodies such as the European Union and the United Nations.

Worse, it is sanctioned at everyday dinner parties, pubs and workplaces by sneering – usually left-wing or Islam-inspired – criticism of Jews, Zionism and/or Israel.

It was the combination of ferocious anti-Semitism corralled into government policy and the cowardice or disinterest of Europeans who saw Jews as inferior that combined to create the conditions for the Holocaust.

All it took was a leader and an ideology sufficiently evil and powerful enough to carry it out.

The Iranian government, now pursuing nuclear weapons thanks to the hopeless deal of former US president Barack Obama, is among several groups that I call “Hitler’s franchisees”.

Palestinian protesters call on the USA and Israel to free Palestine.

Hitler vowed to wipe the Jews from Europe, and almost did. The Iranians have vowed to wipe Israel, home of the Jews, off the face of the map. Same thing, really.

Iran even sponsors a Holocaust denial cartoon competition to mock the dead. Plenty of Arab or Islamist entities are committed to ridding the Middle East of Jews.

On the weekend, a Palestinian official claimed all the land “between the river and the sea” as a Palestinian state free of Jews. By definition, this means wholesale deportation of Jews from their homes.

By train, perhaps? In a bizarre anti-Semitic rant, President Abbas dismissed Israel as a “colonial project”.

The Mufti of Jerusalem claims the Wailing Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, belongs only to Muslims. Only the Trump administration has the balls to stand up for Israel’s Jewish heritage and legal status.

Islamic-inspired anti-Semitism accompanied the surge of immigrants into Europe. Two weeks ago, a 15-year old schoolgirl had her face slashed with a razor because she was wearing a Jewish school uniform.

Days earlier, two kosher shops were torched. Last April, a 67-year old Jewish woman was thrown to her death out of a window by her Muslim neighbour. All in Paris.

Orthodox Jews pray at the Old City’s wailing wall.

Violence threatens Europe’s Jews all over again. No, not goosestepping Aryans in jackboots, but Muslim gangs.

A British Labour MP this week bravely spoke up in the face of a series of anti-Semitic scandals that have plagued his own party and pointed out that “bystanders are complicit in their silence”.

He’s right. It is not good enough to ignore the gross anti-Semitism spouted by the media, popsters, and even mainstream politicians.

Think of the little girl shot in the back and ask yourself – when did you last speak out against anti-Semitism and in defence of Jews?

Rowan Dean co-hosts Outsiders on Sky News Sundays 9am, Thursdays 8pm.

Original article here.

Rita Panahi: Anti-Semitic attacks on the Jewish community can’t be ignored

WE live in bizarre times when bigotry, intimidation and violence are all but ignored while imaginary fears and faked crimes are amplified. The shocking rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, and increasingly in North America, should be ringing alarm bells around the world.

In the past decade, we have seen an unprecedented number of Jews leaving France and a worrying percentage departing Belgium and Italy. The Jewish population is also decreasing in other parts of the continent tarnished by the horrors of the Holocaust.

One in 10 Jews in France has suffered a physical assault, according to a 2016 Ipsos survey, and a 2013 EU poll revealed three in four are so fearful of attacks they no longer publicly display signs of their religion such as wearing the Star of David.

People in a kosher market after it was damaged in an arson attack in Creteil, south of Paris. Picture: AP Photo/Michel Euler


A French kosher grocery store was this month destroyed in an arson attack, after recently being vandalised with swastikas. Picture: AFP Photo / Alain Jocard


In Sweden, threats, harassment and attacks against Jews have become commonplace and yet we rarely hear about such incidents. The same commentariat who obsessively write, talk and tweet about racism and supposed Islamophobia rarely mention the fact that Jews are the biggest victims of religiously motivated attacks in much of Europe as well as in the US and Canada.

Two recent incidents involving “hate crimes” perpetrated against vulnerable schoolgirls perfectly illustrate the perversity of fanning faux fears while ignoring real attacks. In the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles, a Jewish girl’s face was slashed with a utility knife in what many, including French politician François Pupponi, are calling “a heinous anti-Semitic attack”.

The 15-year-old victim was wearing the uniform of a local Jewish school when attacked, and the knifing followed several other anti-Semitic incidents, including this month’s torching of two kosher shops. The crime barely received any coverage.

A police presence outside Sydney Jewish school, Mount Sinai College. Picture: Phil Hillyard


Armed security guards at Jewish schools in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Picture: John Grainger


A few days later, we heard about the ordeal of a Muslim girl in Canada who, on the way to school, was approached by a man with scissors who cut the end of her hijab. Within an hour, the media were in overdrive, reporting this horrifying example of Islamophobia.

Khawlah Noman, 11, fronted a press conference and said: “I felt confused, scared, terrified.”

Political leaders including Toronto mayor John Tory, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the attack.

Mr Trudeau said: “My heart goes out to Khawlah Noman following this morning’s cowardly attack on her in Toronto. Canada is an open and welcoming country and incidents like this cannot be tolerated.”

The story was front-page news and inspired a multitude of outraged comment pieces seizing on the crime as an example of the virulent Islamophobia in the West.

The only problem is, it never happened. Three days later, Toronto police confirmed the attack had been faked. The girl’s family, who were by her side at the press conference, apologised. No one will face any charges.

But even after the hoax was revealed, there were multiple pained feelpieces warning of an Islamophobic backlash in response to the faked Islamophobic backlash.

Police at a synagogue after it was attacked in a failed arson attempt in Gothenburg, Sweden. Picture: Adam Ihse


Put to one side that the attack on the Canadian girl didn’t happen, and ask: why did one of these attacks receive saturation coverage from mainstream and social media?

WHY was a Jewish girl with a cut face not as compelling a story as a Muslim girl with a cut hijab? One reason is that crimes against Jews in the West are increasingly perpetrated by Muslim migrants, and that doesn’t fit the narrative pushed by activists in the media class.

Of course, those with an agenda to push are not interested in facts, figures or fairness but what has been truly disappointing is the way the Jewish community has been let down by political leaders.

British Labour’s issues with anti-Semitism have been well documented. Last year, more than 100 Labour MPs denounced their own party for its failure to expel Ken Livingstone after the former London mayor made some absurd remarks about Hitler and Zionism.

Last month, Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan spoke of his concern at the toxic anti-Semitism infecting Labour.

“We recognise and we see that there are anti-Semitic views in many of the leadership of the current Labour Party,” he said. “We hope it will be changed.”

The Jewish community says it has been abandoned by authorities. File image


And increasingly, Jewish leaders in the UK say that they have been abandoned by authorities, including the police. There was a 14.9 per cent increase in anti-Semitic crimes in the country in 2016, but fewer than 20 were prosecuted.

“The failure of police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service to protect British Jews is a betrayal,” said Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism.

“The result is that British Jews continue to endure intolerable levels of hate crime.”

In Sweden, the number of anti-Semitic attacks has also skyrocketed in the past decade. Swedes are having to confront the uncomfortable truth that they have imported old hatreds and the type of diversity not associated with tolerance. Attacks against Jews, Jewish businesses and properties have soared.

The statistics provide a stark reality check for the deliberately blind who don’t want to acknowledge the cause of the violence.

Just over half of all anti-Semitic attacks in Sweden are committed by Islamists, about a quarter by Left-wing extremists, and 5 per cent by neo-Nazis or Right-wing extremists.

Australia is not immune to the rise in anti-Semitic sentiment: you only have to look at the security measures necessary at Jewish centres or schools to understand the community’s safety concerns.

But thankfully we are not seeing the same levels of hatred and violence.



Rita Panahi is a Herald Sun columnist.

Original article here.

Vandals target Jewish community

By Daniel Stringer
North Shore Times
January 17, 2018 4:34pm

The community of St Ives has been left shocked by what has been called an act of “racially motivated vandalism”.

During the evening of January 6, several vehicles in St Ives were defaced with spray painted symbols of swastikas and abusive words. Given the large Jewish population in St Ives, the crime is being interpreted as having racial undertones.

A van parked on the street was spray painted with the swastika symbol.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff strongly condemned the incident.

“Racially-motivated vandalism has no place in civil society,” Mr Alhadeff told the North Shore Times.

“Nazi swastikas represent the ultimate in racial hatred, and all well-meaning people should condemn these attacks and those who engage in such despicable behaviour. We hope that the authorities catch the thugs responsible.”

However Ku-ring-gai councillor David Citer, who is a prominent member of the local Jewish community, said he believed the attack was “a one-off” but agreed it was motivated by “racial hatred”.

“At the end of the day St Ives is made up of a lot of different religions whether it be Christian, Catholic, Muslim or Jewish and we are a very tolerant community,” Mr Citer told the North Shore Times.

“I think the average resident living in St Ives would look at this act in a bad light and I don’t think that sort of sentiment is echoed through the community. I think this is a one-off incident and as a whole the community is very tolerant of all different religions and we have proven that we can live harmoniously with people of an array of different faiths.”

Data from the 2016 census showed that almost ten per cent of the population living in St Ives identified as Jewish. Mr Citer said the use of a symbol which carries a meaning of prolific hatred and genocide such as the swastika is very troubling and more education is needed to prevent another act of this kind.

“Unfortunately you do get a few in the minority who want to express hatred through racism and bigotry and obviously an act like this where swastikas are being painted on cars is a blatant act of racism.

“Education is always the key and I think it is important for young people to understand what the Jewish community actually went through during the Second World War.

A representative for the Ku-ring-gai LAC stated that the investigation is ongoing and there are no people of interest at this stage.

Original article: