Thursday, December 31, 2015

Iran Shoots at US Carrier

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

On Saturday, December 26th, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard fired rockets dangerously close to the USS Harry Truman, the aircraft carrier of the US 5th Fleet. Also in the area was a French frigate.
The incident took place in the Straits of Hormuz. Iran gave the United States 23 minutes advance warning and then shot the rockets.

The rockets came within 1250 yards of the US ships.

The action was provocative, to say the least. There is no doubt that tensions are swelling in the region.

In the past the United States has attacked Iranian targets in the Straits and that has been the cause of great tension.

1988 was a very tense year. It all began in April when the Iranians almost sank the USS Samuel B. Roberts when it hit an Iranian landmine. Later that month the US sank oil platforms and 6 Iranian navy ships, including 2 frigates. And in July, the United States accidentally shot own an Iranian airliner killing 290 people. The US said that they mistook the airliner for an Iranian F-14 fighter jet.

Iranians still talk about these events and call for justice.

Iran has threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz. Even a brief closure would be devastating to the oil market - about 30% of the world's oil passes through those straits every single day.

Tensions must be dialed down - now. 

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

ISIS Hackers

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

ISIS has created an internet message forum that teaches and trains hackers on ways to invade and attack. The forum is found on a social messaging app called Telegram.
300 people have signed up.

On the site are tutorials and while most of the material can easily be found elsewhere on the net, this is one stop shopping. Many lectures and videos are in a single place making it easier for future cyber terrorists to learn their diabolical trade.

Telegram offers a 27-part video course on evaluating and then penetrating a computer system. It teaches how to find vulnerabilities and weaknesses. It gives tests and practice problems.

The hard reality is that learning these details will not convert the student into a hacker or, at least, not into a good hacker... one who can cause damage to a country or a city or a company.

Missing from this app is the creative energy and the problem solving skills. That is what really makes a great hacker.

ISIS is trying to hack. They succeeded in hacking into US Central Command's twitter feed and posted some tweets in January. But that is hardly a serious hack. Breaking into a twitter account is not like breaking into Central Command itself.

We must worry and we must protect ourselves from cyber attacks. ISIS wants to be a player in the world of cyber crime and they have some capable hackers. But in the meantime, the real threats come from China and from Russia and from the anarchists. 

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Saudi Imam Says ISIS is Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Conspiracy is one of the hallmarks of Arabic culture and society.

But there are problems with conspiracy theories. They get in the way of history and truth. They prevent authentic evaluations. And they can be found almost everywhere, even in the highest echelons of power.

Abdul-Aziz al-Sheikh is the Mufti of Saudi Arabia. He is the most important Imam, or cleric, in the country. The Mufti analyzed ISIS and the threats made by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi against Israel. Remember, Baghdadi released a radio message telling the world, and especially Israel, that ISIS has not forgotten the

Palestinians and that when Israel least expects it, ISIS will strike.

Saudi Imam Abdul-Aziz al-Sheikh told a Saudi newspaper that ISIS was actually Israel. He said that the radio presentation of ISIS was a hoax and that, in reality, ISIS is actually soldiers of Israel.

I couldn't make this stuff up. Here is the Imam Mufti's exact quote about Baghdadi: "his threat against Israel is entirely false. The reality of ISIS is that they are soldiers of Israel."

How can one even progress in any dialogue or any discussion when fundamental elements and facts cannot even be seen as truths?

It is like having a discussion with someone who says the world is flat or the sky is green. And this is the most important cleric in all of Saudi Arabia. 

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Monday, December 28, 2015

ISIS in Sinai

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The Sinai Desert might very well be where ISIS is most powerful and best organized right now. It is probably there that they are better organized than even in Syria in Yemen or even in Iraq.

The Sinai is home to Answar Bayt al Maqdis (ABM) which means the protectors of Jerusalem, aka (also known as) Wiliyat Sinai which means the Sinai Province.

ABM is over 10,000 fighters strong. That is a massive and significant number, especially considering that 30,000 is the number of fighters ISIS has in Iraq and Syria. They threaten Egypt regularly and they are right on Israel's border. Israel has increased their intelligence in Sinai as they expect that ABM will attempt an attack and there is very little chance that there will be any advanced warning.

Just a few days ago Israel's Special Forces conducted a surprise set of maneuvers in the south. They were role playing an ISIS attack in Eilat and Niztana.

ABM is the group that downed the Russia airliner in Sinai which killing 240 people. Now Israel is working very closely with Egypt and has increased every aspect of defense strategy.

What makes the fight against this ISIS affiliate so complicated is that the most feared and best organized Bedouin tribe in the region has become part of the ISIS block. The Sawarka tribe is the most brutal and the most powerful of the 26 tribes in the Sinai. Cross the Sawarka and you die.
The Sawarka began their business trade by smuggling drugs into Israel, then weapons and now people and just about everything else.

This tribe has 2,500 fighters plus 10,000 in reserve. They are divided into organized units with 75 to 100 fighters in each unit, each with clear roles and responsibilities. They are a professional fighting force.

This Bedouin tribe knows the terrain like no one else and they are extremely loyal. Right now the tribe favors ISIS - they have an alliance which will attack Egyptian forces and all Westerners.

The head of operations for Sawarka is Ibrahim al Manai. He has granted only one interview and it took place in a cafe in Caro. In the interview al Manai made it clear that his tribe is well outfitted and well trained in the use of numerous weapons and tactics.

Most importantly, it was clear from the interview that al Manai sees the Sinai as belonging to the Sawarka and they will not permit any outsider control over what it theirs.

None of this portends well.

The union between ISIS and a fierce Bedouin tribe with experience smuggling goods and people into Israel is a very serious and very dangerous nexus. 

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

ISIS Says They're Coming For Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
ISIS released a radio address on Saturday , December 26, in which the voice of their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is heard saying that he has not forgotten about Palestine and that ISIS is coming for the Jews.

He said "The Jews thought we forgot Palestine and that they had distracted us from it."

He continued "Not at all, Jews. We did not forget Palestine for a moment. With the help of Allah, we will not forget it ... The pioneers of the jihadist fighters will surround you on a day that you think is distant and we know is close. We are getting closer every day."

By "pioneers" Baghdadi means the first ISIS terrorists who have the plans and are plotting to attack Israel.

Israel is aware of the threat - and has been aware of it even without the warning delivered by this radio address, and is working to defend itself. 

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Arabs Heckle Arab

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

A world famous Arab expert in Islam, Dr. Omer Salem, was heckled at the University of Haifa.

From news coverage these days one would naturally think that the hecklers were Israeli Jews. But no, it was not Israeli Jews who heckled Dr. Salem.

Two Palestinian psychology students disrupted the lecture. They called Salem a collaborator and said that he had Palestinian blood on his hands.

Dr. Omer Salem was born in Egypt. He teaches at Yale University. His area is what Islam thinks of Jews and the opposite and he has created an institute for bringing Jews and Arabs together. Salem focuses on Israel and also deals with other areas of the Middle East.

The hecklers shouted that "the blood of martyrs is spilled and you get the middle finger." In Arabic and Hebrew the expression is graphic and vulgar. In English - well, you get the idea. The hecklers shouted that Salem "should just go back to Egypt and solve their problems."

These two students succeeded in stopping the meeting. It was all caught on tape. Security came. The hecklers were referred to the university's committee on disciple.

The university responded by saying that it is unacceptable to disturb a presentation in an academic institution. The students will be punished. Freedom of expression and academic independence are essential.

The sad part is that these students represent the Balad party, an Israeli Arab party which is represented in the Israeli parliament. These students clearly have difficulty with freedom of speech.
There are ways to protest and ways to disagree. Heckling and being disrespectful is not a time honored democratic principle, However, freedom of speech and freedom of expression are. 

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

China's New Anti Terror Laws

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The Chinese are about to pass their new anti-terrorism law.

Everyone in the counter terror community, including Western politicians, is waiting to see how strict it will be and how wide the span of this new Chinese law will be.

The basis of the law is that all technology will be required to have a back door and all providers will be required to provide encryption keys to the government. That includes media, internet, phones, cell phones, computers - everything.

Obviously, there are many concerns about the abuse of personal rights which, for many years, has been a concern in China.

In the West, governments have asked businesses to turn over their encryptions and so far they have declined. The most obvious example is Apple. The iPhone6 has a very simple yet highly effective encryption system. When asked by Homeland Security to turn over the encryption key, Apple demurred and said doing so would violate the privacy of their customers.

It is almost impossible to crack these encryption systems and the
more they are used by terrorists, the safer terrorists will feel and the easier it will be for them to coordinate and execute their attacks.

A balance must be achieved between preserving citizen privacy and tracking terrorists and terrorist activities. 

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Jordan Says Hamas Leader Not Welcome

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Jordan has decided not to allow Khaled Mashaal to visit their country. Mashaal is the head of Hamas.

In 1999 he was officially expelled from Jordan and Hamas offices there were closed down. Since then Mashaal, who has Jordanian citizenship, has visited only once - with permission, in 2012.

Jordanian leadership believes that Mashaal and Hamas will disrupt Jordan. They think that Mashaal will incite and agitate.

The purpose of this trip is to celebrate the release from prison of Muslim Brotherhood leader Zaki Bani Ershaid. It is Ershaid who was guilty of harming relations between Jordan and the UAE.

Jordan told Mashaal that he was not welcome at this time. In other words, circumstances might change. These things happen. At another time, he might be permitted to visit.

For instance, in 2012 when Mashaal last visited Jordan he met with the king. That is significant. Mashaal went from an audience with the king to not being permitted.

At this point Mashaal and Hamas are seen as problems by the Hashemite Kingdom. We will see what happens as time passes. 

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Israel Targets Evil Terrorist

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

There is little doubt that Israel targeted Samir Kuntar, the infamous Druze terrorist and Hezbollah leader.

Israel released Kuntar from prison where he was serving successive life terms for perpetrating a horrific terror attack that included the brutal murder of a young Jewish Israeli girl. After having the child witness the drowning and shooting of her own father, he crushed her skull.

Israel released Kuntar in exchange for the remains of the bodies of two Israelis that were being held by Hezbollah.

Samir Kuntar returned to Lebanon a hero.
So why kill him?

Kuntar was not targeted for what he did - that would require a judge and jury. Kuntar was targeted because he was plotting more terror attacks. Israel had Intel that he was coordinating a series of attacks from Lebanon and Syria into Israel.

That knowledge elevated the targeting of Samir Kuntar to an act of self defense.
This was not an act of vengeance. Vengeance is not justice and vengeance is immoral -- vengance is not how Israel behaves.

Given Samir Kuntar's history and the intelligence it was clear that innocent Israeli lives were at stake. Targeting the terrorist was morally justified and it was legal.

An interesting aside to this story is that part of his exchange was that Samir Kuntar signed a contract not to engage, organize or be involved in any form of terror.


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Monday, December 21, 2015

Belgium Law Prevents Fighting Terror

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The Belgians have detained - not arrested, only detained one person in connection with last month's horrific terror attacks in Paris.

There has been very little progress that has been made public. The person detained was not the ring leader Abdelhamid Abaoud. He is still at large.

Belgium almost caught him last week. They knew where he was staying the night of the attack, but he escaped.

You will not believe this, but t is against the law for the police in Belgium to conduct a raid after 9
PM and before 5 AM.

Abaoud discovered that the police were waiting for him so he slipped out of the apartment where he had been staying, during the night.

The law is in place so that Belgian people are not disturbed by police making noise at night. It is impolite and not urbane or cultured to have such activity at night.

The laws of Belgium must be changed.

Terrorists do not care about disturbing the quiet of the night. The police cannot be limited by such ridiculous limitations. They need to find and capture the mastermind of this terror cell.

Belgium should not be a safe haven for terrorists. 

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

New West Bank Poll Prefers Hamas

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Surveys and polls work one of two ways - either they surprise us or they confirm what we thought.

A new poll surveying Palestinians shows that Palestinian youth today are radicalized and think that violence is justified and that through that violence they will achieve their goals. This is a marked change.

The survey also showed that the motivation for these actions is not religious, it is political. Those surveyed say that their reason for supporting violence and the reason for violence is to achieve a political objective.

Finally, and this is the most telling of all the results of the new survey, is that if an election were held in the West Bank today, Mahmoud Abbas, the current leader of Fatah and president of the Palestinian Authority, would overwhelmingly lose by at least 10 percentage points to Ismail Haniyeh the leader of Hamas in Gaza.

This is a damning blow to the establishment.

The West Bank is becoming more and more radicalized. This new study confirms our sense that young people are disenchanted with Abbas and the Fatah establishment and that West Bank youth are embracing violence as a tool to achieve their objectives.

That thinking poses a serious threat to a peaceful resolution to the situation between the Palestinians and Israel. 

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Kuwaiti Air Shut Route- Told to Accept Israelis

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The US Department of Transportation has ruled that Kuwaiti Airlines was in violation of US law by not allowing an Israeli named Eldad Gatt to travel on their airline from JFK in NYC to Heathrow in London in 2013.

Gatt complained to the DOT. At first they rejected his claim. He appealed and the DOT found Kuwaiti Airlines in violation.

Kuwaiti Airlines said that they were following their laws which prohibit any business with Israelis or with Israel. The punishment for violating that law in Kuwait is very strict and includes imprisonment and hard labor.

The DOT ruled that "We considered Mr. Gatt's claim upon an alternative ground ... which holds that an 'air carrier or foreign air carrier may not subject a person, place, port, or type of traffic in foreign air transportation to unreasonable discrimination."

The DOT said that Kuwaiti laws do not outweigh the US law against discrimination where the destination permits Israelis to take off and land.
Kuwait appealed the ruling on November 23.

In response, Kuwait has simply shut down their NYC London route. It was very profitable route but they decided to close it rather than lose to the DOT while the case is in appeal.

Kuwaiti Air still flies from NYC to Kuwait and Israelis are not permitted to purchase a ticket. That does not violate US law because Kuwait does not allow Israeli passport holders to enter their country. 

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

US Travel Warning For Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday The US State Department issued a travel warning concerning Israel.

The statement was issued in order to call attention to US travelers to Israel because of what it calls "heightened tensions and security risks."

The warning is worded in almost the same language as previous warnings saying that the "security situation can change day to day, depending on the political situation, recent events, and geographic area." It lets travelers know that US government employees cannot travel on public buses and that certain areas are off limits.

Then the warning editorializes, saying that these are the worse tension in over a decade.

"Since October 2015, attacks on individuals and groups have occurred with increased frequency in East and West Jerusalem, Hebron, and Bethlehem, as well as various other places in the West Bank and Israel, including Tel Aviv."

"More than 12 US citizens have been among those killed and injured in multiple attacks in 2014 and 2015," it added.

The warning asks Americans to be aware and sensitive to religious cultures, Muslim sites and increased tensions on Friday and on Muslim holidays.

The State Department needs to do this, they need to issue warning and protect US citizens. 

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Kerry Folds to Putin

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of State John Kerry had a very long meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting lasted three and a half hours.

Supposedly, Kerry was there for tough talks.

After the meeting Kerry said that the US and Russia see Syria "fundamentally very similarly." He added that: "The United States and its partners are not seeking so-called regime change as it is known in Syria."

I think everyone was shocked to hear this.

The United States has been pushing a regime change since the very beginning of the conflict. What was Kerry really trying to say? And how is it possible that the US and Russia see eye to eye?

The secretary of state explained it this way: "Despite the different positions of our countries, we have shown that Russia and the United States are moving in the same direction."

In Kerry's eyes he and Putin were trying to discuss items that they both agreed on. So as opposed to continuing along the same path with the United States pushing for the ousting Assad, the US
Secretary of State instead spoke about creating a vehicle of political transition - which is just another way of saying let's oust Assad.

Russia knows how to play that game, too. So Putin agreed to what Kerry said, knowing full well that the only way there will be any stability in Syria is with Assad in place. Putin also knows that Assad needs to part of any political process.

Kerry also said that the United States does not wish to "isolate Russia." But from an analytical point of view, it looks like the US has capitulated to Russia. Kerry termed that "charting a course out of hell" - referring to the Syria situation.

It's no wonder Putin looked so happy in official press photos. 

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why People Are Fighting ISIS

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

65 nations are part of the coalition to fight ISIS. Many of them are Muslim countries.
Do not be deceived. They are in it for their own interests, not for the common goal.

Let's just go through a few and you will understand.

Start with the Turks. Turkey's main objective is to destroy the Kurds. They are using the ISIS situation as a cover to help further their own anti-Kurd actions.

Next, the mostly Shiite Iraqi army. They are taking advantage of the situation and getting rid of Sunni tribal forces. Iran is siding with the Shiite militias and striking out against Sunni fighters everywhere.
The Iranians want to attack all Sunni fighters whether in Iraq or in Syria.

As for Russia, the Russians come from the outside and they are hitting Sunni forces throughout Syria.

We think that the fighting is between the 65 countries in the coalition and ISIS. That is not true. There is a huge amount of internal fighting going on, both Sunni to Sunni and Shiite to Sunni fighting.

Some of the feuds go back centuries, others are more current battles centering on today's power struggles and the control of essential resources, roads and lookouts.

And we cannot forget that even ISIS is fighting not just against the West, but also against al Qaeda and all its various spinoffs. Almost everyone is fighting someone. 

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Monday, December 14, 2015

MUD is not What You Think

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Have you ever heard of MUD. Not the dirty wet sludge that we dread when it gets on our kids' clothes.

MUD is a method of attacking social media.

Israel is one of the world leaders in understanding the internet and hacking. So why has Israel permitted such anti- Israel vitriol on the world wide web? They could easily take it down. Why have they let it go on?
MUD stands for Monitor, Use and Destroy.

This is how MUD works. First thing you do is watches the websites. That's the Monitor part.

After you watch all the websites and detect what is happening in world wide web you have your hackers use the site and try to manipulate the site through the use of outsiders. This second level of interaction tries to influence content through the users. That's the USE part.

Finally comes DESTROY. The last step is to destroy a site, to flood it and to bring it down. The problem with just bringing down a site is that, in a matter of a short period of time, the site will be resurrected elsewhere in a matter of hours, sometimes days.

Shutting down a site is not the best way to stop a message. They pop up again too quickly. The concept of using and manipulating a site through its existing users is a great risk. There is no way of knowing what will happen.

That leaves us with monitoring the sites as the best method of dealing with the anti-Semites. Israel can easily bring down these anti-Semitic sites, but the best way to really deal with these sites is to monitor them and nothing more.

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Gay Iranian Poet Escapes to Israel

By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:

This story almost sounds like it is made up. But it is not made up and it touches on an essential difference between Iran and Israel.

A 30 year old, gay, Iranian, poet named Payam Feili escaped Iran and is now in Israel - where he wants to stay. Feili is the author of nine books and many other works including a novella which was made into a play and is now being performed in Tel Aviv. It is entitled "I Will Grow I Will Bear Fruit ...Figs."

Feili came to Tel Aviv to see his play performed.

Iranian police arrested Feili three times over four years. His charge for most of the arrests was being gay. He fled Iran because, he said, it was too much. During his last arrest, Feili was held for 44 days without being charged. He was blindfolded and kept in a shipping container. The reason for that arrest was agreeing to have his book translated into Hebrew and sold in Israel.

Human rights groups say that over the last few years, 4,000 people have been executed in Iran for being gay.

Feili has been fascinated by Israel since he was a little kid.

Tel Aviv is a very open city and is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. It is constantly garnering top positions as a popular Mecca for gay culture

Feili is happy to be in Israel and during an interview he said: "All the stupid and ridiculous threats the regime issues against Israel have never influenced me and will never influence me."

Iran and Israel are arch enemies. Iran has pledged to wipe Israel off the map and Iranian leaders often call Israel a cancer.

Feili is proving a point. He escaped the restrictions and rigidity and oppression of Iran and is seeking refuge and freedom to be who he is, in Israel.

This is one of those great stories where evil is evil and good is good.

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Catholic Church Says Don't Convert Jews

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with Jews released an official statement which is now the official policy of the Catholic Church and is endorsed by the Pope. The new policy is very clear. Do not try to convert Jews.

The statement reads: "The Church is therefore obliged to view evangelization to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views."

The Church is asking Catholics: "to do all that is possible with our Jewish friends to repel anti-Semitic tendencies".

"A Christian can never be an anti-Semite, especially because of the Jewish roots of Christianity," it said.

The document called on Catholics to: "bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews" but that they should do so in "a humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God's word."

This is the most direct statement the Church has made. They are saying hands off.

This is a follow up to Vatican II which made it clear that Jews today do not bear responsibility for the death of Jesus.

This new statement says that Judaism is not some pagan, it is not a foreign tradition. It is saying that Judaism is the original tradition upon which Christianity is based and it is saying that Jesus was, unequivocally, a Jew.

The Vatican has taken a major step forward.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

It's Chanukah

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

It's Chanukah and the White House hosted its annual party. This year's guest of honor, the person who lit the White House menorah, was Israel's president Reuven Rivlin.

Before the event Rivlin and Obama met and conducted a media session. The meeting went well and, so did the press conference that followed.

True to form, Obama could not let an opportunity slip by without, in some way, chastising Israel about the situation with the Palestinians. The president told Rivlin that while it may be that peace is far away, none the less, Israel should still try hard.

There was, of course, a menorah lighting service in Jerusalem at the Prime Minister's residence, as well. That ceremony was far different from the ceremony at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Netanyahu family dog took a bite out of both a member of Knesset and the husband of the deputy foreign minister. The medical team assigned to the prime minister treated the victims.

Four more nights to go.

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Terror Dolls Stopped in Haifa Port

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

4,000 dolls were confiscated in the Haifa port.

The dolls were packed and labeled as clothing, carpets and plastic.

Male dolls wore a scarf emblazoned with a picture of the Al Aqsa Shrine. Writing on the scarf read "Jerusalem - We are Coming," and "We are Jerusalem."

The heads of the dolls were wrapped in black and white kafiyahs, only the eyes were visible.

Each doll's hand clenched a rock and the arm was raised and cocked as if ready to throw the rock.
Inspectors stopped the dolls at the port because there was absolutely no doubt but that the toys were a tool for incitement and hatred.

Authorities termed the dolls "inciting dolls."

Thousands of containers enter Haifa every day and there is no way of checking them all. The inspectors profile each container. This container came from UAE and seemed suspicious so it was x-rayed and the dolls were discovered.

This is really a treasure trove of a toy chest. 

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Last Nazi

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Germany is putting a 93 year old man named Reinhold Hanning on trial. Hanning is charged with 170,000 counts of accessory to murder. Reinhold was an SS guard in Auschwitz.

The trial will begin in February and will probably be one of the last Nazi trials. We will watch it carefully. The case will only be heard in two hours daily doses because of Hanning's age and health.

Hanning admits that he was a guard in Auschwitz I. Auschwitz I was a prison not a death camp. He claims that he was not in Birkenau, also known as Auschwitz II, which was where 1.1 million Jews were murdered.

The Germans will also be following this case very closely. They need to teach the lesson that evil is evil and it does not matter how old Hanning is now. What was done was wrong.

He might be the Last Nazi. 

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Farouk's Father's Words of Wisdom

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Sayd Farouk's father Rahil gave an interview to the Italian media outlet La Stampa. He told them how "polite" Sayd was and what a "good man" he was.

The father gave insight into the advice that he gave his son. The father's words of wisdom were, in his own eyes, supposed to calm his son and to assure us that Sayd Farouk was not a murderous terrorist.

The father said that Farouk supported ISIS and its leader Baghdadi.
He was particularly pleased with the role of ISIS as it stood to confront Israel.

This is what he said:
"I always told him, 'remain calm, be patient; Israel won't exist in another two years ... The geopolitical situation is changing; Russia, China, even the US - no one wants the Jews there anymore. They'll send them back to Ukraine."

These ideas are coming from Farouk's father and they are hardly moderate. One can only imagine how extreme the son's ideas and actions were if this is considerate moderate thinking. 

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

PA Supports Terror

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Let's all agree that terror is evil -- it is simply wrong and there is no excuse and no justification for terror. Especially, when the terror is perpetrated by members of the police or security forces.

On Thursday when a Palestinian security intelligence person stopped his car at Hizma junction, exited his car and opened fire wounding Israelis and a Palestinian, just north of Jerusalem. We should all agree that it was wrong.

The terrorist was killed on the spot. His name was Mazen Hassan Orbia. In 1992 his father stabbed an Israeli. In 2002 his nephew was killed stabbing an Israeli on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem. Orbia carried out his terror attack the day after the anniversary of his cousin's attack in 2002.

This is clear cut.

What is not clear is why Saeb Erakat, chairman of the Palestinian National Committee and chief Palestinian negotiator with Israel, visited the Orbia family on Saturday together with the governor of Jericho.

Palestinian leadership often visits terrorist's families - but this is the first time such a high ranking official visited a terrorist's family.

I read about the visit in MA'AN news which is a Palestinian news agency. They were very clear as to the sequence of event - the shootings and the death of the terrorist. They were very clear that Erekat visited and showed a wonderful picture of him sitting in the family living room.

Why did Saeb Erekat make this very public visit to the family of a man - a man whose job it was to protect others - a man who, unquestionably, committed a blatant act of terrorism?

The only reason I can formulate is that Erekat came as a representative of Palestinian leadership and Palestinian leadership openly agrees with and supports this kind of terror - not just stabbings, but shootings. Not just actions taken by ordinary citizens, but also actions taken by their security members.

There is no other explanation. 

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Friday, December 4, 2015

It Was Terror in CA

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Why is it so hard to call what happened in San Bernardino TERROR.

The answer depends on what you are hoping to accomplish and what your stance is on certain issues.

The Fort Hood terror attack is still called "workplace violence" even though the murderer was in direct email contact with Islamic radical leaders who call for mass murder and jihad against America.

The FBI says that because the perpetrator acted alone, because he was not part of a group, it is not terror.

They are afraid to call it terror - and they certainly refuse to call it Islamic terror. They refuse to see the simple reality.

Two Muslims planned and organized attacks on Americans. They were radicalized. The targets were clear and the attack precision perfect.

Many people are refusing to call it terror because that would mean that the murderers do not fit into a narrative. Instead, they put the perpetrators into a false narrative that calls them "crazy" and "unstable unwanted and troubled".

Others do not want to call it terror because people are afraid of what Islamic terror means in America.

Finally, people do not want to offend Muslims.

These terrorists were not unstable. They were cold and calculating. They were mass murderers. Repeat after me. It was an act of terror and the perpetrators of the act were terrorists. Say it again. 

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

OPEC Conflict

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

OPEC will meet on Friday. Expect fireworks. The conflict will be between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Many issues are at stake. The most important issue is, who sets the tone and who is leader. It is all about power.

OPEC is responsible for 1/3 of the world's oil and they have tried to control the price of oil by controlling the supply of oil. Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producer by far pumping 10 million barrels per day.

Iran is trying to re-emerge as an oil producing power and they are producing 1 million barrels per day.

But oil dropped below $40 a barrel this week and OPEC is considering limiting production. That can be dangerous.

Iran wants to limit oil in the market to drive up prices. If only it was as simple as that ubiquitous supply and demand graph in Econ 101.

In 1985 and 1986, Saudi Arabia played with supply and dropped their output from 10 million barrels per day to 2.5 million. That decision caused a drop in revenue that resulted in a 16 year cash crisis for Saudi Arabia and turned the oil market volatile.

Now, 30 years later, Saudi Arabia is thinking of suggesting a reduction of production - but that is also what Iran wants and given the tumultuous state of affairs and the conflicts between these two nations, that would be a gift that the Saudis probably don't want to give Iran.

In 2011 the Saudis walked out of the meeting because they wanted to increase production. Today the Saudis are locked in conflict in Yemen. They are locked in conflict in Syria. They are locked in conflict in Bahrain. This may be one of the most contentious OPEC meetings in their 168 meeting history.

Over the course of the past few meetings the Saudis have convinced the members of OPEC that playing with supply, despite falling prices, will hurt everyone and by keeping production stable they can predict the market.

Of course, the side benefit of keeping supply stable is that Iran cannot increase either its power ot its coffers. And that is a real benefit to the Saudis. 

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

ISIS Cell in Georgia

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Georgia is a former Soviet republic.

Yesterday the Georgians arrested the members of an ISIS cell.

Counter terrorist police found stockpiles of guns, grenades, audio equipment, communication devices, computers, videos and discs.
Of course the group had ISIS flags.

The cell was situated in the area around the Black Sea. There is a significant Muslim population in that area, but traditionally, it is a Christian area and there have been no tensions.
In the past most terror cells and arrests in Georgia have taken place in the northeast of the country.

The northeast is home to the many ethnic Chechens living in Georgia.
Georgia security officials are not commenting on the arrests. Nor are they discussing the dramatic difference between this group and its location versus the ethnic Chechens.

It should be obvious.

The Chechens are fighting for independence. They happen to be Muslims and they are attacking Christians, Georgians and, of course, Russians. They want a Chechen state which will be a Muslim state.

On the other hand -- and this must be worrying the Georgian authorities --- ISIS is fighting to create a caliphate. And then they want to take over the world.

There is the difference. 

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Where Will Russians Run to Escape the Cold

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The conflict between Russia and Turkey has significant ripple effects.

For example, Russia is no longer importing fruits and vegetables from Turkey. The official reason for the ban is contamination of the imported produce. We, of course, know that the real reason is that Turkey shot down a Russia air force bomber.

This is a huge loss to Turkey. 20% of Russian fruits and vegetables are imported from Turkey.
Russia announced that they will pick up the difference by importing fruits and vegetables from Iran and Israel. This, in turn, will be a big boon for Israeli produce exporters.

At the same time, Russians love to escape the cold winters and they were accustomed to fleeing to Turkey. Turkish hotels and charters included very inexpensive, all inclusive, deals. No Israeli hotel can compete with the price, the service, or the standard that Turkey easily provided.

Never the less, the Israeli Hotel Association is lobbying for a huge immediate investment of government tourist advertising funds in an effort to woo this potential new tourist pool. Some Russians might be swayed to come to Israel despite the significant price difference. But most will not.

Also taken off the agenda for Russian vacationers are the chartered, all inclusive trips to the Sinai. ISIS took care of that when they blew up a Russian vacation charter jet killing 224 people.

Sinai was another perfect place for Russian to vacation during the cold winter. And again, the hotels in the Sinai were luxurious and inexpensive.

One night in a 5 star Jerusalem hotel is the cost of a week in Sinai or Turkey.

But at least Israel, along with Iran, will be providing tomatoes to Russia. 

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