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Daily Telegraph 11-May-16
In recent months I’ve had cause to interview several Holocaust survivors.
And though each story – can we call them stories, it sounds so banal? – is different, the themes remain unilaterally unsettling: fear, heart-breaking, wrenching separation from a loving mother or desperate father, arbitrary brutality, unimaginable savagery.
But the harrowing testimony of these now elderly men and women also offers an enduring postscript, as each survivor exhorts those who listen to never forget man’s inhumanity to man.
For Jews like me, well, how can we forget?
Auschwitz survivors just after its liberation by the Soviet army
How can we forget this?
After all, had it not been for the bravery of our Allies holding out against the Third Reich and the geographical inconvenience of our island geography, British Jewry would have also been swept up by the systematic slaughter of the Holocaust. As would other detractors of the genocidal Nazi regime.
Fortunately, despite Hitler’s best intentions, this never came to pass.
But such fears remain deeply ingrained in the Jewish DNA. What if joined-up political lunacy ever spread across Europe again? Would Britain be so well-equipped to stand alone were we to be yoked together in an already legitimate alliance with Europe?
It’s for these reasons that nothing will convince me of the rightness of staying in the EU – even after David Cameron predicted on Monday that a Brexit will increase the risk of Europe descending into war.
PM warns that Brexit would put peace at risk Play! 01:25
Of course I’m aware that my drawing on comparisons with the Nazis will immediately trigger accusations of paranoia. In fact, before you jab the response button at the end of this piece, let me say it for you. Yes, much of Jewish identity is suffused with a paranoid fear of annihilation. But hasn’t every Brexit/Remain argument – not least Cameron’s war call – been an expression of paranoia?
This is different. This is more than your paint-by-numbers Jewish angst. Examining Brexit through the bloody history of pan-European fascism renders leaving Europe – at least for me, – a matter of survival.
And if your face, race, creed or colour risks a future mismatch with photo-fit political state-sponsored idealism, then it should be something for you to consider too.
To remain in Europe is to transfer sovereignty from Westminster for Brussels. Our borders will remain porous; our laws subjugated by those who would aim to, as Chris Grayling put it “Europeanise” our justice system. The UK has already surrendered significant power and veto to the EU, especially in the Treaties of Lisbon, Amsterdam and Nice.
Should the the far Right, hard Left or disenfranchised extremist communities ever sweep across Western Europe, how much easier will it be for Britain – Jews and non-Jews – to be overrun by such a contagion should those in power align themselves with such toxic beliefs?
After all, Jeremy Corbyn may be a joke. But his party’s intractable issue with anti-Semitism remains – potentially – inoffensive to the hard Left or the voices within Labour who may have once schmoozed with extremists.
Ken Livingstone defends his ‘anti-Semitic’ remarks Play! 01:33
It’s clear that Europe has a problem with bloodthirsty, visceral anti Semitism. Look no further than the jihadist murders of Jews in Brussels, Paris, and the Danish capital of Copenhagen over the past 12 months, or the heinous attacks in Toulouse three years ago when a gunman shot dead a teacher and three children at a Jewish school in the French city.
Conversely, in its reaction to radicalised Islam, the far right has also mobilised, with the neo-fascist Jobbick party in Hungary, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece, and the far-right National Front in France. It seems when it comes to the dangers of continent-wide fascism, the European mainland has a short memory.
Were the dots to join would it be such a nightmare prophesy to imagine how much easier some unholy alliance could sweep this way were we to remain in the EU? I’ve no idea, but I’m not taking a punt.
I’m proud to be British, proud to be Jewish and proud that the Holocaust survivors I know found refuge in this country. But I’m voting out.
As to whether successive generations will find the UK a place of refuge is something only history will be able to tell us.
Jerusalem Post 14-May-16
Despite the fact that much of the Jordanian population sees Israel as the enemy, cooperation and people-to-people relations are quietly and slowly growing.
The second batch of 500 Jordanian day workers was recently approved to work in hotels in Eilat, and the government hopes to eventually reach 1,500 Jordanian workers in the Red Sea city.
Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud) has been pushing for expanded relations with Israel’s neighbor including a “Jordan Gateway” project, which would include a new bridge between Israel and Jordan as part of a shared industrial zone in the northern Jordan Valley.
Following his visit to Jordan, where he was on hand to promote the project, Kara revealed that the process to construct the bridge has begun, with tenders being issued for building.
“The final preparations to start the work are being made,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
The ultimate goal, Kara explained, is to open the border between the two countries.
As such, talks are under way to open a new border crossing with Jordan near the Dead Sea to ease tourist travel and bring in more Jordanian workers to replace illegal African migrants.
Dr. Abdullah Sawalha, director of the Amman-based Center for Israel Studies, is keen on facilitating cooperation projects of this nature.
For example, Sawalha, who frequently visits Israel, is spearheading a partnership between the Amman Center and the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University. The agreement, signed last summer, sent the first delegation of Jordanian students to Israel on May 1.
Some of the students study in the Hebrew department at Yarmouk University, which is located in the northern Jordan city of Irbid, noted Sawalha.
The students will travel throughout the country and learn a narrative they have perhaps never heard.
“Part of our mission and commitment is to educate our people about Israel,” said Sawalha, who mentioned that a group of Israeli students is planning to visit Jordan in September and meet with Jordanian students.
In addition, there is a plan to translate from Hebrew into Arabic a book by former Israeli ambassador to Jordan Prof.
Shimon Shamir, who is at the Moshe Dayan Center. The entire project to translate the book will take place in Jordan and will be the first time a center in Jordan translates an Israeli book, said the think tank director.
The center’s director, Uzi Rabi, is a firm believer that academic cooperation is a conduit to promoting relations between the two countries.
Noting the strong opposition to such cooperation in Jordan, Rabi is optimistic in the long run that relations will continue to improve.
Sawalha also pointed out that there has been dialogue between his think tank and the Jerusalem Institute for Israeli Studies about how to defuse tensions on the Temple Mount.
“The aim is to redefine the status quo, because Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians each have their own perspective about what that is,” he explained.
The Center for Israel Studies, which is seeking US government funding, began only a year ago and is off to a fast start with a flurry of activity.
Due to the sensitive nature of his projects, Sawalha has found himself serving as a shadow diplomat of sorts, doing things that would land the country’s official diplomats in hot water with Jordanians who oppose normalization. Sawalha dismisses any official connection with the government, but says there is a great need to “create public opinion that supports this kind of cooperation.”
“Both countries have a mutual interest and common threats so we have to develop these relations,” he added.
“If you are talking about the environment, energy or agriculture, these problems don’t recognize borders. We need to find a new approach and we have a peace treaty, but as you see, people in Jordan still think Israel is our enemy,” explained Sawalha.
The common belief in the Arab world is that Israel exists in this region even though it is regarded as an enemy, but “there is a growing opinion that there is a need to cooperate with Israel because of mutual interests.”
“We have to change the public opinion in Jordan,” he said, adding that he is now trying to conduct public opinion polls in Jordan to know exactly who is against Israel and who is for it and under what conditions Jordanians would agree to work and cooperate with Israel.
“We don’t have statistics,” he realized in discussions with his colleagues in Jordan and Israel, adding that “it is not healthy to only hear angry rhetoric from parliament members or newspapers that Jordanians are against Israel.”
As a result, a polling company is being sought to conduct the survey as well as funding.
The institute publishes in Arabic on its Facebook page in order to educate Jordanians about Israel and he is quick to point out that the center receives no government support.
Sawalha has been interviewed by the Jordanian media and has had a few articles published in newspapers, but it is not easy to get articles promoting relations with Israel published.
“It is only a matter of time. I am sure we will succeed with a step-by-step strategy to find a way to change Jordanian public opinion.”
Many Israeli journalists and colleagues press him to be more active in Jordanian media, talking about boosting cooperation, but “this is not the time,” cautioned Sawalha.
“I don’t feel a threat; Jordan is very safe.
I am working for this initiative to succeed, and for that reason I have to move slowly, or else all of our enemies in Jordan will attack me at the same time.”
Jerusalem Post 13-May-16
The once frosty relationship between Israel and Greece has blossomed into a new partnership dedicated to boosting security ties, as the region is plagued by new threats.
Israel and Greece have in recent years upgraded bilateral diplomatic and defense relations to a significant degree, creating a new Mediterranean alliance that developed quickly following Turkey’s plunge into Islamism.
Now, with reports surfacing periodically of a thaw in Israeli-Turkish relations, the partnership with Greece, carefully built up over the past six years, faces a new test.
The new friendship with Greece has flourished under various, often ideologically opposed, governments that have risen and fallen in Athens, which was once traditionally unfriendly to Israel. The partnership appears to be immune to political changes in Athens or Jerusalem, driven by national interests and shared concerns over regional developments.
In April 2015, the Israel Air Force held a large-scale training exercise in Greece for its combat and transport helicopters, enabling aircrews to gain valuable flight experience in mountainous terrain. Such training helps the IAF prepare for a range of missions, including potential long-range operations.
It came weeks after the IAF sent fighter jet squadrons to fly with the Hellenic Air Force.
Israeli pilots encountered new terrain, and practiced, with Greek pilots, hiding their aircraft in the mountains – training that would be difficult to pull off in Israel, a mostly flat country.
IDF commanders hailed the cooperation with Greece, while Greek Larisa Air Base Commander, Col. Dormitis Stephzanki said at the time that cooperation “contributes to the safeguarding of security of both countries.”
He hailed the “common language we created,” adding, “I believe that training at the base and under the terrain conditions that exist here strengthened the Israeli air force and its ability to fly in any place they will be required to fight.”
A few months later, Greek helicopters and fighter jets arrived in southern Israel for training.
In February this year, Greece’s Defense Minister Panos Kammenos came to Israel to speak at a conference held at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Ramat Gan, and his remarks provided indications of some of the forces that drove his country to upgrade relations with Israel.
Kammenos blasted Turkey’s regional conduct, which he described as being driven by “Ottoman revisionist and hegemonic ambitions,” accusing Ankara of acting in ways that are “far from being friendly, far from being in accordance with international law, and far from being stabilizing” in the region.
Ankara’s conduct toward Greece is “creating friction in the Aegean in Southeastern Europe,” he said.
He accused Turkey of “deliberately” moving hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees to “European soil.”
“It is still maintaining illegally occupying forces in Cyprus, and hinders the progress of negotiations on the island. It tries to block exploration of natural resources in the Mediterranean,” Kammenos said.
“You in Israel know very well how Turkey behaved in December 2012 and January 2013 when the Republic of Cyprus announced the discovery of hydrocarbons [nearby in the Mediterranean Sea]. You also know about its behavior toward your country, its support for anti-Israeli organizations, and its fomenting of anti-Semitic feeling, its indiscretion in sensitive areas, and maximal demands in order to normalize relations with Israel,” he added.
“TURKEY’S OTTOMAN ambitions extend from Bosnia and Herzegovina to the southern Mediterranean shore,” the Greek defense minister said.
Greece is very concerned by the prospect of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, he added.
Turning his attention to the Iranian nuclear deal, Kammenos said a failure to fully implement the deal could have an impact on whether Turkey eventually goes nuclear.
In July 2015, Israel and Greece signed a status-of-forces accord that offers legal protection to members of both militaries while training in the other country. Kammenos visited his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, where the accord was signed.
Israel had only ever signed a similar accord with the US.
Ya’alon said then: “We wish the Greek people and Greece itself success in its effort to overcome the economic challenge [it faces]. We pray for that since we believe Greece is a very important country, with a history and a contribution to the history of humanity.”
Ya’alon paid tribute to joint training between the IDF and Greek military within Greece, adding that the countries have shared interests, and both are dealing with the impact of the Iran nuclear deal.
Few people are as familiar with the process that drew Jerusalem and Athens close as Israel’s ambassador to Greece from 2010 to 2014, Arye Mekel.
Mekel also served as deputy ambassador to the UN, and held a series of senior diplomatic roles,. He told The Jerusalem Post by phone in April about how the new relationship began.
“I was there just at the right time,” Mekel said. “I’d like to think that my actions contributed to this.”
Prior to 2010, relations had “not been good for many years,” Mekel said, citing Greek socialist governments that were “very friendly towards [Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser] Arafat” and the Palestinians in general, viewing Israel as an extension of the US.
Greece was unfriendly to Israel in the EU, forming a diplomatic adversary along with Portugal, Ireland and Spain.
“The change started in 2010, in a surprising way. It came from the socialist [former prime minister George] Papandreou, who is the son of an anti-Israeli prime minister [Andreas Papandreou],” who sent Greek ships to Beirut in 1982 to facilitate the rescue of Arafat from the hands of the IDF.
Born in the US, the Harvard-educated Papandreou did not share a traditional hostility to the US, Mekel said. He cited a chance 2010 meeting between the Greek premier and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow. “They sat down for a long dinner in Café Pushkin.
Papandreou proposed upgrading relations with Israel, and Netanyahu acquiesced,” Mekel recalled.
In June 2010, the agreement went into effect, and Mekel personally accompanied the Greek prime minister on an official state visit to Israel. In August of the same year, Netanyahu reciprocated with a visit to Greece. “He wanted to strike while the iron was hot,” Mekel said.
Until then, Greek governments saw Israel as a “proxy of the US, and the US was hated there for many years,” Mekel said. “Papandreou changed this. His personality was more American, different from many other [former leaders],” Mekel added. “But more importantly, Greece was in the midst of a severe economic crisis. Things were not looking good. He had a dream, to turn Greece into a broader, more important player globally, or at least, in the eastern Mediterranean.
He wanted to mediate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if the peace process was renewed.”
In December 2010, Greece immediately complied with an Israeli request to send firefighting planes to help Israel deal with the Carmel fire disaster.
Mekel, acting on Netanyahu’s orders, got Papandreou out of a meeting with the Polish prime minister in Warsaw to facilitate the assistance.
In that same year, Turkey had broken off relations with Israel, following the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident in which nine Turkish citizens were killed as they tried to break the naval blockade on Gaza. Turkey banned IAF planes from flying over its territory – a ban that is still in effect, Mekel said. “We needed an immediate ability to fly over Greece, en route to Europe and the US.
[Today], there is someone in our embassy in Greece whose job it is to coordinate these flights,” Mekel said.
Attributing the new friendship to the crisis with Turkey is both “true and untrue,” Mekel argued. “I think Papandreou used that development as an excuse to explain the change to the Greek people, telling them: Now that Israel is not friends with Turkey, we can enter,” he said. “The Greek people accepted this. They saw it as a good reason. But there were also practical reasons.
Our people whom I spoke to lost faith in the Turks. There was a need for a new partner we could share secrets with.
Greece is not a military power like Turkey.
On the other hand, this is a NATO member, with a military that is not bad, and a good navy. It is an ancient seafaring nation, with a very large airspace, almost 20 times larger than own. Suddenly, the opportunity arose. Within a short time, air forces started training together over Greece and the Negev,” Mekel said.
Israeli pilots were pleasantly surprised by the capabilities of their Greek counterparts, he said.
By 2011, Israel had a new friend in the Mediterranean. In that same year, 15 sea vessels that were supposed to head to Gaza from Greek ports found themselves blocked by Greek security forces.
“Of course, Israel did not want another flotilla. We started intensive activities with Greece, which occurred at the level of prime ministers and downwards, and involved daily work by me and the embassy. We worked with the Greek coast guard, chief of staff and navy. They prevented the flotilla from heading out.
This was very important for us militarily and politically, and it was the proof that Greece was going beyond talking, that it was willing to act,” he recalled.
Mekel later accompanied former Israel Navy chief V-.Adm. Eliezer Merom to Greece to thank the country for its assistance.
Greek special forces had boarded would-be flotilla boats and arrested sailors, carrying out actions in a manner that was highly unusual for that country.
“When I saw the special forces with helmets and submachine guns arresting the sailors, I could not believe it. In Greece, one does not see such things often.”
In 2012, a new Conservative government headed by prime minister Antonis Samaras took charge, and good relations continued. “It was not obvious he would continue the policy. In 2011, when he was in the opposition, I saw which way the wind was blowing. I sent him to Israel in December 2011, and requested a red-carpet reception. When he rose to power, not only did relations continue, he even upgraded and enhanced them. Military cooperation grew and became substantial between the two navies,” Mekel said. Israeli missile ships arrived for a 10-day training run off Greek islands.
The air forces also stepped up a gear and began joint training. “Flights over Greece are very important. Israeli pilots know every centimeter of Israel. They can fly from Dan to Eilat in an F-16 in under 20 minutes. There is a major need for young pilots to fly in unfamiliar places. Greece supplies this. Flights over Greek islands are suitable places to train new pilots,” he said.
“Things improved strategically and militarily, the point where in the summer of 2014 we appointed, for the first time, a military attaché to Athens. Until then, I was in touch with their defense minister and chief of staff. Then, Israel canceled the position of the defense attaché in Switzerland, who had until then covered the region. The IDF sent a colonel, who is still there, to Athens.”
In January 2015, a new far-left government took power under the leadership of Alexis Tsipras. “We again were very concerned, because in the past he was very critical of Israel,” Mekel recalled.
“But he surprised us very much.”
Tsipras continued to improve security coordination with Israel, visiting the country twice himself, as did his defense minister, Kammenos.
The enhanced ties also extend to Cyprus, which views Israel as a potential defender from Turkey, Mekel said. When Cyprus indicated its wish to explore natural gas in the Mediterranean with Israeli assistance, Turkey sent warships to the area. “There’s a rumor, which is not substantiated, that our warships also approached the area, hinting to the Turks to leave the Cypriots alone,” Mekel said. Turkey did in fact withdraw its ships.
Now, with Israel and Turkey negotiating a resumption of normal relations, the Greeks are concerned, Mekel said.
“Every time they hear that Israel and Turkey are about to close a deal, the Greeks, at the highest levels, start asking questions. Tsipras asked Netanyahu what this would mean for relations with Greece. The answer we give is that relations with Greece stand on two firm legs, and will not be harmed by an improvement with Turkey. Is this really true? Time will tell. They are very worried about it,” he said.
The Israeli-Greek-Cypriot relationship has created a “new geo-political bloc, that at least theoretically can deal with Turkey, not militarily, but as a bloc with strategic significance,” Mekel said.
Within the EU, Greece is leading the resistance to the directive of marking goods from the West Bank, Mekel noted.
“Greece has a double voice in the EU, because of Cyprus. This is very important,” he added.
In January of this year, the Post’s diplomatic correspondent, Herb Keinon, reported on a meeting in Nicosia, Cyprus, between the leaders of Israel, Greece and Cyprus, in which they adopted a cooperation declaration, hailed by diplomatic officials in Jerusalem as nothing less than a “strategic alliance” in the eastern Mediterranean.
“I believe this meeting has historic implications,” Netanyahu said. “The last time Greeks, Cypriots and Jews sat around a table and talked on a common framework was 2,000 years ago.”
The joint declaration with Greece and Cyprus pledges closer cooperation in seven fields: energy, tourism, research and technology, environment, water management, anti-terrorism and migration, according to the report.
“I think that from Israel’s perspective, there has always been an interest in better relations with Greece,” said Mark A. Heller, principal research associate at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies.
“Most of the movement came from the Greek side, which was previously hostile.
A lot of what drove the old Greek position vis-à-vis Israel turned out to be no longer valid. What drove this mostly was competition with Turkey for Arab and Muslim goodwill. It became evident that this was not so forthcoming, and goodwill that did exist was not worth that much. At same time, a sharp deterioration occurred in Turkish-Israeli relations.
The Greeks saw opportunity,” he said.
“The Greeks were looking at a comprehensive spectrum of relations. The military dimension is one factor, and not an unimportant one. They thought Israel had a long-standing military and strategic relationship with Turkey, which seemed to be really jeopardized by the change in attitude by the Turkish government led by [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan.
The Greeks presumably assumed they could replace Turkey,” Heller said.
“Any relationship is reciprocal, but not necessarily equivalent. Greece gets more out of it than Israel does,” he argued.
“That does not mean there can’t be mutual benefit,” Heller said.
Greece believes Israel has a significant influence on the US, a factor that grew in importance as Greece’s relationship with Europe came under growing strain, he added.
“Israel is trying to replace its relationship with Turkey, to the extent that it can. It has gained access to air and naval training, and it is exchanging information.
To be perfectly honest, I do not think Greece can ever be a replacement for Turkey’s size, military power, and strategic assets. But it is a lot better than nothing, and it is helpful for Israel to have a friend in the corridors of the EU,” Heller stated.
He described an “overlapping convergence of interests,” in which “Cyprus, and by extension Greece, are concerned by what Turkey may or may not do in the maritime routes of the eastern Mediterranean and the natural gas issue, while Israel is concerned over what Hezbollah or Lebanon may or may not do in the same region. There are ongoing contingency plans, and an exchange of assessments.”
Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, noted the decline of the US’s influence in the eastern Mediterranean as a factor in Greece’s decision to become more assertive.
“On our side, we are looking for places to fly in and carry out maneuvers.
Greece has two voices in the EU, and they are worried by Turkey’s activities in Syria and Libya. We also do not like this, and neither do the Egyptians.”
Greece also has an S-300 surface-to-air battery that could prove useful in Israeli training missions for potential future strikes on the Iranian nuclear program.
“Greece, because of all of its islands, has huge territory in the Mediterranean.
Ninety percent of Israeli exports pass through the Mediterranean,” Inbar said.
He added that the Greeks could also help “bring the Egyptians closer to us.
They have historical relations with Egypt, and they do not want to be alone with us.”
Ultimately, Inbar said, relations with Greece challenge notions that Israel is isolated. “Under three different governments… they have preserved relations.
They need us more than we need them – this is clear. They are concerned by Turkey, which is causing problems, sending refugees into the EU. They are worried that Turkey might activate a jihadist cell in Cyprus. They need us.”
Inbar said he was skeptical that Israeli-Turkish relations could really be mended, even if an agreement is reached. “There is no chance under Erdogan that we will reach the same level of relations with Ankara that existed in the 1990s. Talks are occurring, but I am not sure we will reach a diplomatic interest. We have an interest… but the Turks support Hamas, and it is not a close partner of the US. There is much suspicion on the Israeli side,” he added.
Israel, Inbar said, “is not isolated. Many need us. The US exit from the region paradoxically created new partners for us.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to make an official visit to Russia in June, the Interfax news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov as saying on Friday.
The Trumpet 14-May-16
Germany’s military is expanding for the first time in a quarter of a century. Agence France-Presse covers the details in an article titled “Germany to Increase Troops for First Time Since Cold War Ended”:
Germany is raising the number of its troops for the first time since 1990, ending a quarter of a century of successive cuts in the Army since the end of the Cold War. The Bundeswehr is expected to increase in the next seven years by 14,300 soldiers, while 4,400 civilian officers will also be added to the service, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said.
This boost in troop strength is “necessary, given the current situation” of increasing tensions with Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, as well as several foreign missions undertaken by the Army, she said.
Germany is preparing to join efforts to bolster nato’s presence on its eastern flank bordering Russia, in a bid to reassure east European alliance members rattled by Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
The Bundeswehr has also deployed troops to Mali as part of a UN mission to monitor a peace deal between the government and northern rebels in the West African country. It has also joined an international coalition battling [the Islamic State] in Iraq and Syria. …
“A quarter century of shrinking is over. It is time for the Bundeswehr to grow again,” said von der Leyen. “Not only is this not the trend, it actually represents a 180-degree turn in personnel policy,” the head of German Armed Forces Association, André Wüstner, told the Rhineland Post. The Telegraph wrote:
During the Cold War, the West German Bundeswehr was seen as the first line of defense against a Soviet invasion and was described as “perhaps the world’s best army.” The government will also ask parliament to raise the upper limit on size of the Army from 185,000, so that the Army can be expanded more rapidly if necessary. Financial Times also described the big shift within Germany:
“The personnel increase is not significant in itself,” said Christian Mölling, a defense specialist at the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., a think tank. “But there is a whole package of changes which add up to a large change for Germany.” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is building on the German public’s increasing acceptance of the need for more military spending following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression towards Ukraine and the Islamist terrorist attacks in Europe.
Also, the arrival of more than 1 million refugees in the past year, chiefly from the war-torn Middle East, has convinced many Germans that the world’s crises are coming closer to their front doors—and so require a more active response
Washington Post 14-May-16
BEERSHEBA, Israel — Here in the middle of the Negev Desert, a cyber-city is rising to cement Israel’s place as a major digital power. The new development, an outcropping of glass and steel, will concentrate some of the country’s top talent from the military, academia and business in an area of just a few square miles.
No other country is so purposefully integrating its private, scholarly, government and military cyber-expertise.
Israel is a nation of 8 million people with little in the way of natural resources. But in global private investment into cybersecurity firms, it is second only to the United States, with half a billion dollars flowing to the sector annually. Israel has not only vowed to repel the thousands of daily hack attacks against targets as diverse as the electric grid and ATMs, but it has also promised to build its commercial cybersector into an economic powerhouse.
[Israel hopes a cyber-city in the desert will coax highly trained, affluent, young people away from Tel Aviv]
More quietly, the Jewish state is also at the cutting edge of cyberoffense, developing stealthy computer weapons to penetrate its enemies’ networks. The United States and Israel, working together, launched the world’s most destructive cyberweapon known to date, Stuxnet, which was let loose on Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility to devastating effect.
But where the two countries diverge is in Israel’s apparent ability, because of its size, history, geography and culture, to organize itself to defeat cyberthreats. Different sectors of society — that in the United States do not have a tradition of collaborating — appear willing in Israel to work closely together under a strong centralized authority.
“You will not find it in the United States,” said Eviatar Matania, the head of the National Cyber Bureau. “First, we have more enemies than others. We understand that the cyberthreat is here and now. Second, a lot of Israel’s high-tech and innovation culture is in cyber. This is where we can gain an advantage over other countries in defending ourselves. And thus, we see cyber not just as a threat to mitigate, but also as one of our economic engines.”
That strategy is the foundation of Beersheba.
A cyber emergency response team, which was launched in 2014 to respond to cyber crises, will be housed in the midst of this booming development. It is part of the National Cyber Security Authority, which is mandated to protect all private-sector systems.
Nearby, next to a new advanced technology park that already houses cyberfirm incubators and global companies such as PayPal, Lockheed Martin and Deutsche Telekom, backhoes are preparing a construction site that will become the headquarters of the Israeli military’s cyberdefenders.
[Israel to launch one of the most advanced missile defense systems in the world]
Eventually, the nation’s secretive, elite cyberattack branch — the army’s Unit 8200 — will also burrow in here. The two branches are scheduled to merge next year. They in turn will work closely with the National Cyber Security Authority.
Joining the effort will be the Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, which as well as its role in Israel and the occupied territories, has been a key cyber player for more than a decade. And completing the complex is Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, which is the nation’s top school for cybersecurity. The university will also work with the cyber-response team.
“What you get out of that is the research capabilities that academia brings, the real-world knowledge that the [tech firms] bring, the hands-on experience that the military brings, alongside the entrepreneurial ability that the start-ups bring,” said Nadav Zafrir, a former head of Israel’s Unit 8200, who is himself now a tech entrepreneur. “You put all that together, it sparks magic.”
[Stuxnet was work of U.S. and Israeli experts, officials say]
Blocking, throwing punches
Israel will never achieve a cyberespionage network on the scale of the United States. But it wants to be feared in the region, and its computer hacking and spying skills are sophisticated and innovative.
“The United States has more capabilities than Israel in cyberspace,” said Gabi Siboni, director of the cybersecurity program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “But we are small. We are very anxious, and it’s the difference between a speedboat and an aircraft carrier. We go very fast.”
So central is security seen for the state’s survival that every citizen — men and women alike, with exceptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews and the Arab population — is required after high school to complete a term of military service. The cream of the computer science and math crop are scouted by the elite military cyber-units when they are as young as 14.
“If you ask me what’s the biggest secret of the Israeli high-tech system, it’s the military’s ability to look at people when they are in high school,” Zafrir said.
The roots of Israel as a cyber power go back to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, said retired Brig. Gen. Yair Cohen, another former head of Unit 8200, which employs thousands of soldiers and serves a role similar to the National Security Agency. In less than three weeks, Israel lost more than 2,000 soldiers largely because of a dramatic failure of intelligence.
As a result, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) decided to reinforce their signals intelligence arm, Unit 8200. The unit sought the best code-makers and code-breakers, Cohen said. It also began to conduct its own research and development, with soldiers building radio interception, and now cyber tools. “We cannot wait for someone in the United States to give us technology,” said Cohen, who now runs his own cyber venture capital firm.
Today, the military is working closely with the National Cyber Bureau, and is seeking legislation that will allow it “to be a major player in defending the nation” against cyberattacks and to take action against adversaries, said Brig. Gen. Danny Bren, head of the branch in charge of defending the military’s computer networks.
The military hopes to establish a cyber-command by the second half of next year, a move the United States took seven years ago to merge the missions of attack and defense. Bren likens it to boxing. “You don’t see the boxers only throwing punches, or only blocking,” he said. “They must do both.”
Israel’s ability to play offense came to light in a joint operation with the United States called “Olympic Games,” a campaign to disrupt Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Discovered by private-sector researchers in June 2010, the computer worm Stuxnet caused nearly 1,000 centrifuges at Natanz to spin out of control, requiring replacements. Never officially acknowledged by either country, the campaign nonetheless showed the world what was possible with a cyberweapon and it spurred other countries — Iran chief among them — to set up cyber-commands.
“This global understanding drove everybody to a cyberweapon force buildup,” Bren said.
But Israel’s desire to act has sometimes created friction with even its closest ally. In 2012, Iran detected a series of cyberattacks that wiped data from networks in its oil industry. Investigating the malware, private-sector researchers discovered a cyberespionage tool that had been created jointly with the United States years earlier, but that Western officials said was launched by Israel in a unilateral operation. That deployment annoyed the NSA, as it led to the discovery of the spy tool, dubbed Flame.
[U.S., Israel developed Flame computer virus to slow Iranian nuclear efforts, officials say]
But, said a former senior U.S. intelligence official, “it was generally viewed as being worse for the Israelis than it was for us” because it was their primary cyberespionage tool.
“Any time two states agree to tackle complex and consequential projects together, misunderstandings and occasional disagreements are inevitable,” said Stephen Slick, a former CIA station chief in Tel Aviv who now teaches at the University of Texas at Austin. Nonetheless, he said, “a deep reservoir of mutual respect and trust exists between the Israeli and U.S. security communities, with both sides recognizing the benefits of close collaboration in cyber-activities.”
Cross-pollination in desert
High on the 22nd floor of Israel Electric Corp., the nation’s main electric utility, a jumbo screen on a wall shows the frequency and intensity of attempted hacks into the government-owned company’s network. Israel Electric, located in Haifa on the Mediterranean Sea, two hours north of Beersheba, is one of the most targeted entities in Israel.
A successful attack could disrupt power to virtually all of Israel, said Yosi Shneck, the company’s senior vice president for information and communication. To date, none have succeeded. His engineers have help from an outside source: Shin Bet. Besides thwarting physical terrorist attacks, the security agency is responsible for protecting 30 or so critical entities from cyberattacks. The list was drawn up by Israel’s parliament and includes the Bank of Israel, oil refineries and the blood bank. That is the equivalent of the FBI regulating major U.S. businesses or private entities for cybersecurity — an authority that would alarm American companies and civil libertarians and could not secure support in Congress.
But in Israel, the fear of a major attack is greater than concern for privacy, said Rami Efrati, a former National Cyber Bureau official and founder of Firmitas, a cyber firm.
Shin Bet does not monitor the companies’ networks. It sniffs out threats before they hit the firms. It also relies on sensors the companies install in their systems to gather information that is then fed back to the security agency. In turn, Unit 8200 and Mossad, the foreign intelligence agency, also share cyberthreat data with Shin Bet. By contrast, in the United States, it took years to pass a law to encourage — not compel — companies to share computer data with the government.
Yaron Wolfsthal, who heads an IBM research lab at Ben-Gurion University here, is anticipating more cross-pollination in the desert, as he awaits the arrival of army cyber-units.
“We can work with them even before they are discharged,” he said, noting some will be working toward advanced degrees. And, he added, “The technical engineers will go from their home to the base everyday, and on the way, they will see banners for all the companies here. This primes them to consider working in those companies later on.”
The military’s elite cyber-units, for their part, have created a climate that fosters innovation and encourages people to stay even after their terms of service are up — three years for men and two for women.
“Unit 8200 works like a start-up,” said Tomer Touati, a captain who stayed for six years and is now with PeriTech, a cyber venture capital firm. “You have your own R&D team. You can pick up the phone or send an email to another R&D team and say, ‘Look, I think if you do this and this, we can work faster or better.’ ”
Israel is also grooming its next generation of warriors to populate the cyber-infrastructure it is building.
At Ohel Shem High School in Ramat Gan outside Tel Aviv, a uniformed recruiter sits in on sophomore math classes, scouting candidates for the units that protect the military’s networks.
Military cyber-officers are mentoring students at four Israeli high schools that have advanced courses in math and computer science. The two-year-old program has more than 800 students.
“My dream since childhood is to work in computers and cyber,” said Yarin Zeevi, 18. “This,” she said, “is what I can give to Israel, as a citizen and as a soldier.”
To lure students to sign up for cyber-units, the military organizes trips to its training base near Tel Aviv where students can get a taste of the action. One recent excursion featured a “hack-a-thon” in which the students were assigned to build an Android app that would allow a smartphone to take a person’s picture and then use facial-recognition software to search databases for a match.
“We are looking for talent,” said Capt. Rotem Bashi, a commander in a cyberdefense unit, “because the . . . next war will be in cyberspace.”
The United States has officially begun building a military installation in Poland that will form part of a larger missile defense shield for Europe, operated by the NATO military alliance. Friday’s construction began shortly after the U.S. switched on an $800 million defensive missile launcher in Romania, provoking an angry reaction from Russia which views the project as a threat to its security.
Listen to Stefan Bos’ report:
After years of preparation workers have now begun building the U.S. anti-ballistic-missile instillation at Poland’s former military airport in Redzikowo near the Baltic coast. The site will be able to host some 300 American troops in 2018.
Situated about 250 kilometers (155 miles) from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, it will host 24 land-based SM-3 missiles as well as antiaircraft systems. The installation in Poland is the final site of the European missile shield, which will be handed over to the NATO in July and run from a U.S. air base in Germany.
It will be a counterpart to a base in the southern Romanian village of Deveselu.
In Romania, accompanied by an honor guard and military band, senior U.S. and NATO officials declared operational what is Europe’s first land-based defensive missile launcher site.
The system is capable of shooting down rockets from countries such as Iran that Washington claims could one day reach major European cities. Moscow is furious saying the shield upsets the strategic balance in Europe, posing a security threat to Russia.
Yet speaking in Romania, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work played down Russia’s fears. “It was never, ever about Russia. It was always about ballistic missiles coming out of the Middle Eastern region towards NATO allies and U.S. forces in Europe,” he said.
“And I just like to echo what the NATO secretary general has said. We have offered to the Russians to show them the technical specs. We have done everything we can to try to make sure that they understand the capabilities of the system and why it does not pose any type of a threat to their strategic deterrence,” Work added.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the same ceremony that the missile defence shield does not undermine or weaken what he called Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent.
But senior Russian officials have threatened military retaliation that could include targeting the facilities.
A 4.9-magnitude earthquake struck southern Israel just before 5 A.M. on Monday morning. No injuries or property damages were reported.
The quake was felt throughout the Negev region, with tremors being detected from Eilat to Be’er Sheva.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake’s epicenter was about 100 kilometers southwest of Eilat in the Red Sea, 25 kilometers northeast of Dhabab, Egypt.
On June 27, 2015, an earthquake measuring 5.1 in magnitude struck just north of the city of Nuweiba in the Sinai Peninsula. The light tremor was felt in Ashdod, Be’er Sheva and Eilat and caused no injuries or damages.
Daily Telegraph 16-May-16
More than 300 business leaders are calling on Britain to vote to leave the European Union, saying that the country’s “competitiveness is being undermined by our membership”.
In a letter published in the Telegraph, the business leaders say that Brussels’ “red tape stifles every one of Britain’s 5.4 million businesses” and claim that a Brexit would allow them to “create more jobs”.
Signatories of the letter include Peter Goldstein, a founder of Superdrug, Steve Dowdle, the former vice president Europe of technology firm Sony, David Sismey, a MD of Goldman Sachs and Sir Patrick Sheehy, the former chairman of British American Tobacco.
Boris Johson: eight reasons Britain should leave the EU Play! 02:09
The letter is also signed by hundreds of people linked to small and medium-sized businesses. In total the backers of the letter are from businesses employing hundreds of thousands of members of staff.
It will be seen as an attempt to redress the balance after the Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund last week warned that a Brexit would damage Britain’s economy.
It came as:
Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, said that Brexit campaigners are in “denial” about the economic risk of the UK leaving the EU, in an intervention described as “incredibly dangerous” by a minister.
George Osborne, the Chancellor, will on Monday make a speech warning about the economic cost of a Brexit.
Boris Johnson prompted a row by comparing the EU to Nazi Germany.
Senior Conservative said that as many as 100 Tory backbenchers could back a no confidence vote in David Cameron if Britain votes to remain in the EU.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said that he will under no circumstance share a platform with Mr Cameron ahead of the referendum.
Three million European Union citizens in Britain could have to be deported in event of a Brexit, a Home Office minister suggested.
The letter in the Telegraph is signed by 306 business leaders in a personal capacity.
It states: “Year-on-year the EU buys less from Britain because its economies are stagnant and millions of workers are unemployed. According to Mervyn King, the former Bank of England Governor, the Euro ‘might explode’. Brussels’ red tape stifles every one of Britain’s 5.4 million businesses, even though only a small minority actually trade with the EU.
“It is business – not government – which generates wealth for the Treasury and jobs for our communities. Outside the EU, British business will be free to grow faster, expand into new markets and create more jobs. It’s time to Vote Leave and take back control.”
Meanwhile, Lord Farmer, the former Treasurer of the Conservative Party and founder of Red Kite Group, who is also a signatory of the letter has written for this newspaper’s website to say that warnings of the risk of a Brexit are “misguided”.
All you need to know about polling day Play! 01:46
Lord Farmer writes: “Warnings of disaster if we leave are misguided. Britain, the world’s fifth-biggest economy, should be confident that others will want to trade freely with it especially if, like the EU, they already do so. Europe has a surplus of nearly £70bn with us and no reason to put up barriers.
“Nor will EU countries want to restrict their access to the London markets. Canary Wharf alone does more business than Frankfurt and we are Europe’s financial outlet to the world. Everyone benefits when London booms.
“We can see the possibility now for a bright new beginning. By voting to leave, we will be taking back democracy and this will benefit everyone. By ending a decades-old deception, we will be leading the way for the continent to become more democratic and less intrusive. Brussels will moan, but I suspect the peoples of Europe will be pleased.”
David Cameron’s remain campaign believes that it can win the June 23 vote by focussing on the risks of a Brexit to the economy.
Mr Osborne is in the coming days expected to unveil a major report detailing exactly how the value of houses will fall if Britain leaves the EU.
EU referendum in one word: are you Team Cameron or Team Boris? Play! 01:25
The Leave campaign will use the letter to claim that British businesses are divided ahead of the referendum.
They will also point to the support of so many business leaders from small and medium-sized companies.
Eurosceptics have repeatedly said that the Remain campaign is backed only by big business.
It emerged last week that the campaign to keep Britain in Europe is being part-funded with hundreds of thousands of pounds from foreign companies and some of America’s biggest banks.
Figures from the Electoral Commission show that Citigroup and Morgan Stanley donated £250,000 each to the official Britain Stronger in Europe group ahead of the June 23 referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.
Two other US banks – Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan – donated £500,000 each to the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign before February when donations had to be declared.
Tycoon, on track to win presidential nomination, says it would not matter to him if a country was in the EU or not
Donald Trump has said leaving the EU would not put Britain at the back of the queue to secure a US trade deal under his presidency – a move applauded by the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, who admitted he had reservations about backing the controversial Republican.
Referring to Barack Obama’s warning to Britain over the EU referendum, Trump, who is on track to secure the Republican nomination, said: “I think if I were from Britain I would probably want to go back to a different system.”
Questioned about Britain’s place in any queue under a Trump presidency in an interview with Piers Morgan, to be broadcast on ITV on Monday, he said: “I don’t want to say front or anything else.
“I mean, I’m going to treat everybody fairly but it wouldn’t make any difference to me whether they were in the EU or not. You’d certainly not be at the back of the queue, that I can tell you.”
Responding to clips from the broadcast, shown on ITV’s Peston on Sunday, Farage, who had criticised Obama’s intervention, welcomed Trump’s comments. He said: “It just goes to show Donald Trump is measured, neutral, doesn’t want to get stuck into the punch-up. He’s given a very diplomatic answer.”
Asked if he would back Trump, Farage, who has said he shares concerns about an out-of-touch political class with the American, implied he would do so, but reluctantly.
“I have difficulty with that,” Farage told Peston. “Let’s put it like this, I couldn’t vote for [Hillary Clinton] even if you paid me.
“If you put me up against a wall it would be [Trump] not Hillary, but I have reservations. Encouraging people to beat up protesters, one or two things like that bother me, but look, I tell you what, I think he’s going to win.”
Wall Street Journal 16-May-16
In a newspaper interview, the ex-London Mayor described the bloc as another attempt to centralize European power
Boris Johnson, the leading campaigner for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, likened the bloc’s aims to those of Adolf Hitler, capping a week in which the campaigns for and against EU membership shifted into high gear ahead of the referendum next month.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr. Johnson said the EU was an attempt to rediscover a golden age of a unified Europe under the Romans that had been tried by Hitler and Napoleon and had ended tragically, although he added that the bloc’s methods were different. Then as now, there was no underlying loyalty to the idea of Europe and no single authority that anybody respected, he said.
“That is causing this massive democratic void,” Mr. Johnson—the former mayor of London who is touted as a contender to succeed Prime Minister David Cameron—was quoted as saying.
The main campaign group urging Britons to vote to stay in the bloc, Britain Stronger in Europe, quoted, in a statement, a former head of the British army saying the comparison between Hitler’s attempts to violently subjugate Europeans and the EU was “absurd” and “laughable.” The opposition Labour Party’s foreign-affairs spokesman called Mr. Johnson’s comments offensive and desperate.
A person familiar with Mr. Johnson’s thinking said the quotes in the newspaper article attributed to Mr. Johnson were accurate but the headline “Boris: How EU wants a superstate, as Hitler did” was misleading. Mr. Johnson was putting forward a view of European history that suggested efforts to centralize European power had all failed, be they were political or tyrannical, the person said.
A key argument of those in favor of withdrawing from the EU is that the bloc is undemocratic and supplants national sovereignty. Those in favor of staying, led by Mr. Cameron, have said the U.K. would be safer and more prosperous in the EU than outside it.
The debate ahead of the June 23 referendum intensified this week as politicians of all stripes took to the streets to press their case in what current opinion polls show is a too-close-to-call result. The increased tempo of campaigning by the prime minister and Mr. Johnson and several pro-Brexit government ministers has also highlighted the divisions among Mr. Cameron’s Conservative Party over the issue.
An online survey of 2,043 people on May 11-12 by polling firm CommunicateResearch Ltd. released Saturday found that 45% said Mr. Johnson was more likely to tell the truth about the EU than Mr. Cameron while 21% said they thought the prime minister was more likely to tell the truth about the EU than the former London mayor.
At a campaign event on Saturday, Mr. Cameron said a vote to leave would be a vote for higher prices, fewer jobs, lower growth and potentially recession.
Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney said Thursday that a British exit from the EU, or Brexit, could slam the brakes on growth, push up unemployment and stoke inflation, in the central bank’s clearest warning yet about the potential economic costs surrounding the referendum. The statement infuriated euroskeptics who argued he had overstepped his mandate by commenting on the issue and was taking the government’s side in the debate.
In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. on Sunday, Mr. Carney defended his comments, saying the Bank of England was “absolutely independent” and stood by its warning that Brexit could lead to a “technical recession”—when economic output declines for at least two straight quarters—with growth materially slower and inflation materially higher.
“Ignoring a risk is not to reduce it,” he said, adding that central banks are independent in very specific areas so as not to bend to political pressure from any side and make clear objective judgments and explain those judgments.
“If we are potentially going to alter the path of interest rates or other instruments of monetary policy because of certain things manifesting we have a duty to explain that to the British people and to Parliament,” he said.
New Europe 14-May-16
Gazprom, OMV discuss Russian gas exports to Austria, asset swap, oil supplies and Nord Stream 2
Russian gas monopoly Gazprom and the German government on May 11 discussed the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was criticised earlier by some members of the European Parliament.
A working meeting was held between Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller and German Vice Chancellor and Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel in Berlin on May 11, Gazprom said in a press release.
The Russian gas giant noted that the parties discussed gas exports from Russia to Germany. “It was highlighted that last year had set an all-time record for gas supplies from Russia as they grew by 6.6 billion cubic metres (a 17.1% increase),” Gazprom said.
“The growth trend continues this year as well: the exports have already risen by 2 billion cubic meters (a 19% increase) in the first four months of 2016 compared to 2015. In light of the increasing demand for Russian energy products in Europe, the meeting participants stressed the importance of the Nord Stream 2 project,” it added.
“It was noted that the new gas transmission pipeline would not only improve the reliability of gas deliveries but also facilitate the development of the European gas market,” Gazprom said.
Another working meeting took place on May 11 between Miller and Austria’s OMV Chairman Rainer Seele. The meeting addressed a wide range of issues, including, inter alia, Russian gas exports to Austria, the asset swap, and oil supplies. “An emphasis was placed on the cooperation between the parties within the Nord Stream 2 project,” Gazprom said.
Two days earlier, at the European parliament in Strasbourg, MEPs voiced grave concerns about Nord Stream 2. In a debate with Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete on May 9, MEPs argued the project goes against the objectives of the Energy Union, harms solidarity among EU member states and should be considered from a geopolitical as well as an economic perspective.
New Europe 13-May-16
Greece is one step before collapse and the European Commission, the driving force of the supervisory team, named troika before and quartetto now, is insisting to impose policies which will only accelerate the collapse. With the new round of taxes legislated last weekend, Greeks will stop paying for anything.
The why is simple. Greece is earmarked as the black sheep of the European Union and must be sacrificed in order to save the other sheep before they change their colours. Greece is being sacrificed to save Spain, to start with. Indeed, having visited recently Barcelona, I understood that the message successfully passed to ordinary people is that if they vote for the non-conventional party Podemos of Pablo Inglesias the country will end up like Greece. A similar message is being passed to the Italians where Beppe Grillo with Movimento Cinque Stelle is dangerously rising. It is as simple as that.
However, the collapse of Greece may trigger other undesirable side effects. But the Commission cannot understand this because its thinking is linear. When you live isolated in a glass palace with diluted information, you see everything linear. Societies, the real world, however, are in an ever-evolving turbulent mode.
Most Greeks and many Europeans realise the serious responsibilities of the European Commission over the Greek catastrophe. The why and how is something for future historians to assess. At this moment, we will limit to present what could be practically done to avoid the social turmoil that is imminent and may prove more cataclysmic for Europe rather than for Greece.
President Jean-Claude Juncker is a sharp, intelligent and honest politician. However, thanks to the successful work of his communication and intelligence networks, he has been completely isolated from everyday reality. Indeed, if he knew the real situation in Greece and how possibly it is going to end, he would be approaching Greece in a different way. The beauty of this superb disorientation exercise is that when people are asked what the President thinks about it, the reply, vague yet concrete, always (off the record) is, “you know, he does not care very much” insinuating lies that make imaginations fly.
Greek society has entered into a deep stage of economic, but primarily psychological, depression where nobody cares about anything. Greeks do not care to produce, do not care to develop, do not care to work and do not care to do anything.
There are a few very efficient yet controversial and erratic provisions to take for Greece to return back to normal.
Stop the cartelisation of the Greek market. In Greece, everything is a cartel, we have said this in the past but repletio mater studiorum. It is enough to send a team of DG Competition to Greece and in one month’s time the cost of living will drop to half.
Everything in Greece (except rents) come under a cartel. Supermarkets, cement, construction materials, fresh milk, highways, transport services, fuel oil etc., etc., etc.
Here’s one example. The two airlines of the country merged with the blessings of the Commission in October 2013. The merger was initially refused but thanks to strong political pressures it was accepted (in reality Aegean purchased Olympic). However, certain conditions were set by the Commission for the approval to be given. The conditions were accepted and the merger was approved.
Since then, the Commission was never bothered to check if such conditions were ever met and more so that these were never made known to the public.
Today, a one-way ticket from Corfu to Athens (a 25-minute flight), usually is at €150. These days, there was a general strike in Greece which includes all civil servants and the crews of coastal car ferry services except, what a coincidence, air-controllers. During the strike (Corfu is an island) the Corfu-Athens tickets are selling for more than €200.
Another issue the Commission could intervene and resolve is contraband. Greece is losing every year billions of euros because of petrol smuggling. In Attica (the Athens region) alone, there are 1,200 illegal oil storage facilities. Among the money lost by the smuggling, there is a considerable amount of VAT. Therefore, OLAF could investigate and fix it.
There are two more situations to fix for Greece to easily revert to development. Both are blocked by the ideological limitations of the Greek government and the sensitivities of the Greek opposition. However, a Commission intervention could do it.
The Greek public sector is a bottomless barrel. No matter what, no government right, left or centre will ever dismiss civil servants in Greece. The reason is irrelevant. What the Commission could impose is a gradual reduction of the salaries budget. This is the only efficient way.
The most important step, however, will be the tacit deregulation of the private sector. It is obviously a blasphemy for any Greek politician yet it is the only way.
The Commission and the government are dreaming about big foreign investments in Greece which they think are on the way. Dream on! Nobody will ever come to invest in Greece under the present conditions when no Greek is investing in his own country. The rest is philosophy.
Small companies in Greece, entities with few, mostly family, employees can become the locomotors of re-launching the Greek economy. Presently, all these companies are dying. They produce little, if anything at all, and they pay no taxes or contributions because they have no income. At the same time there is a huge number of unemployed in Greece who, of course, pay neither taxes nor social security contributions.
Simply, the government should instruct by word-of-mouth all state authorities to stop controlling all companies with less than 10 employees for a decade, except for two elements. Not to employ personnel without a legal status for work and to pay regularly VAT. At the same time, abolish all documents necessary to do business. Abolish the debt worthiness certificate of the banks (Tiressias) and abolish all tax and social security certificates. Let small companies free, as it was in the early fifties. Let them produce without taxes and without social security contributions or any labour law obligation. After all, they will employ the unemployed, who will get something instead of the nothing they get now and they will pay VAT which now they do not because they do not produce. They will not pay income tax, but who cares since now they do not pay anyway and this will be the incentive to get them active again. And, once they will get some non-taxed income what will they do with it? It will stay in Greece and will be infused in the orthodox channels of the local economy as Switzerland has become too expensive to wash money.
German Foreign Policy 10-May-16
On the 71st Anniversary of Europe’s liberation from the Nazi’s reign of terror, currently pro-western Ukraine’s leading historian – responsible for the official narrative on history – denies that principal Ukrainian nationalist organizations were collaborating with the Nazis and participated in the Holocaust. In a recent commentary, Volodymyr Viatrovych, Director of the “Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance” calls accusations of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) having collaborated with the Nazi-aggressors, “xenophobia,” and the allegation that they had participated in the Holocaust and committed mass murder among the Polish population, “characteristic of Soviet propaganda.” The Ukrainian historian wrote his commentary in response to an article published in the US magazine “Foreign Policy.” The article sharply criticized Ukraine’s growing revisionism – a revisionism that had already been promoted during pro-western President Viktor Yushchenko’s term of office and further accentuated in the aftermath of the pro-western coup in 2014. “Foreign Policy,” which has always been loyal to Kiev’s putschist regime, now warns that Ukraine “could be headed for a new, and frightening, era of censorship.”
On the 71st Anniversary of Europe’s liberation from the Nazi reign of terror, Kiev’s top government officials have ignited a new round of sharp controversy over their whitewashing and glorification of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators. A current article in the US magazine “Foreign Policy” started the dispute with its strong criticism of the Director of the “Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance,” Volodymyr Viatrovych. The historian is considered a central figure in Kiev’s official policy on history. For years, his standpoints have been provoking indignant protests by prominent historians.
Viatrovych (born in 1977) first made a name for himself as the co-founder and director of the “Center for Research of Liberation Movement” in Lviv, western Ukraine. The Center is considered to serve as a front for the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) in exile. The center is funded and run by the émigré OUN, as the historian Per Anders Rudling confirmed in an interview with german-foreign-policy.com. The OUN was the most important organization of the Ukrainian Nazi collaborators. Along with the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), the OUN participated in the mass murder of Jews on Soviet territory and the massacre of more than 90,000 Poles – with the objective of creating an “ethnically pure” Ukraine. Following the war, many OUN members fled into exile to the Federal Repubilc of Germany, the USA or Canada, where they continued their political activities – until 1991, against the Soviet Union. As director of the OUN “Center for Research”, Viatrovych published the book “The OUN’s position towards the Jews” (in Lviv, 2006), wherein he seeks to whitewash – using blatant forgeries, according to renowned historians – the Ukrainian Nazi-collaboration of its Anti-Semitism stigma. In 2011, he amplified his revisionism with a second book, relativizing the Ukrainian Nazi collaborators’ mass murder of Poles as “the second Polish-Ukrainian war.”
Already during the incumbency of pro-western President Viktor Yushchenko, Viatrovych had played a prominent role in Kiev’s historical policies. In 2008, he was appointed to head Ukraine’s Intelligence Services Archives, which had contained a large number of documents concerning the OUN and the UPA. Back then, he and his colleagues had committed serious forgeries, according to the US journal “Foreign Policy.” In the archive’s publications words, sentences, entire paragraphs implicating the OUN and UPA had been removed. Along with other historians, Jeffrey Burds, professor for Russian, Ukrainian and Soviet History at the Northeastern University in Boston, could confirm these forgeries using copies of the original documents. “Foreign Policy” attributes Viatrovych with also having exercised influence in the re-writing of history books for Ukraine’s schools, which have recently come to the attention of German historians. According to one analysis, three schoolbooks, published soon after Viatrovych stepped down as head of the Intelligence Service Archives (2010), favorably depicted the OUN, its leader Stepan Bandera and the UPA “as combatants for Ukrainian independence.” Not only the German Reich, but also the Soviet Union are presented as Ukraine’s “enemies” during World War Two. This corresponds to the commemoration of the OUN and the UPA, who were particularly fighting Moscow.
In this context, both Viktor Yanukovych’s dismissal of Viatrovych from the Intelligence Service Archives – Yanukovych was elected in 2010 – and Viatrovych’s appointment as head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, March 25, 2014 – just weeks after the pro-western coup in Kiev – can be seen as programmatic decisions. In fact, since 2014, Viatrovych has had considerable influence on the Ukrainian government’s historical policy. For example, October 14 has been declared the “Day of the Defenders of Ukraine.” This is the same day that Ukrainian fascists traditionally celebrate the founding of the UPA. Alongside the traditional holiday on May 9, in memory of the liberation from Nazi terror, May 8 has been named the “Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation,” to also “include the UPA’s liberation struggle, during and since the German-Soviet War, into the war narrative,” according to an analysis of Ukraine’s commemoration policies. In April 2015, the parliament officially designated the OUN and UPA to be “combatants for Ukrainian independence.” Since then, it is prohibited to dispute the “legitimacy” of their “struggle for the independence of Ukraine.” In June 2015, the Ministry of Education handed down a directive calling upon teachers to accentuate “the patriotism and morality of the activists of the liberation movement,” including honoring the UPA as a “symbol of patriotism and sacrificial spirit” and revere the OUN Leader, Stepan Bandera as an “outstanding representative” of the Ukrainian people. There are numerous other examples.
“Russian Intelligence Services”
The renowned US journal “Foreign Policy” has sharply criticized this development. Viatrovych attempts “to redraft the country’s modern history to whitewash Ukrainian nationalist groups’ involvement in the Holocaust and mass ethnic cleansing of Poles during World War II” – and right now, he’s winning, writes the author. Even worse, scholars are beginning to fear “reprisals,” should they not uphold the official line on OUN and UPA. Under Viatrovych’s reign, “the country could be headed for a new, and frightening, era of censorship,” predicts the author, pointing out that an open letter protesting the April 2015 declaration of the OUN-UPA militias to “combatants for Ukraine’s independence,” signed by seventy prominent historians fizzled out without effect after it was immediately defamed as a product of “Russian intelligence services.” Criticism of “Foreign Policy” is all the more remarkable in that this journal unequivocally supports the pro-western putsch in Kiev.
In a furious response, Viatrovych has now responded to the criticisms – and explicitly confirmed the accusations. He alleges, for example, the OUN and UPA “did not collaborate with the Germans.” The “accusations” that they had, is “xenophobia,” the assessment that they had participated in the Holocaust and “ethnic cleansing” – referring to the murder of more than 90,000 Poles is “characteristic of Soviet propaganda.” Viatrovych continues, “there are no OUN documents” to suggest an active participation in the 1941 Jewish pogrom in Lvov following the late June 1941 German invasion. Besides, “the exact number” of the Jews, Ukrainians killed during the Holocaust “is still unidentified and is certainly no greater” than the number “other nationalities” had killed, who also collaborated in the Holocaust with the Germans.
Ukraine is not the only country in a Germany-dominated Europe, where Nazi collaborators are today being honored officially. german-foreign-policy.com will soon report on other cases.
[Footnotes to articles in German removed]  See “Scientific Nationalists”.  See Between Moscow and Berlin (IV) and Honoring Collaborators.  Per Anders Rudling: The OUN, the UPA and the Holocaust: A Study in the Manufacturing of Historical Myths. The Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies No. 2107. Pittsburgh, November 2011.  John-Paul Himka: Legislating Historical Truth: Ukraine’s Laws of 9 April 2015. net.abimperio.net 21.04.2015.  Josh Cohen: The Historian Whitewashing Ukraine’s Past. foreignpolicy.com 02.05.2016. ,  Josh Cohen: The Historian Whitewashing Ukraine’s Past. foreignpolicy.com 02.05.2016.  Volodymyr Viatrovych: Real and fictional history in Ukraine’s archives. www.kyivpost.com 09.05.2016.
German Foreign Policy 13-May-16
The participation of government members at commemorations honoring Nazi collaborators has provoked controversy in Croatia. Several Croat ministers, including the minister of culture, are expected to attend tomorrow’s commemoration ceremonies for Ustasha combatants killed by Yugoslav partisans in May 1945. Croatia’s Minister of Culture promotes Ustasha commemorations – heavily frequented, since years, by Croatia’s rightwing extremist organizations – while spreading doubts about the Nazi collaborators’ crimes. There is growing approbation among Croats for a film downplaying the slaughter committed in Croatia’s Jasenovac extermination camp. The foundations for the growing prominence of Croat revisionism, accompanied by a manifestly rightwing development, were laid – with German support – at the beginning of the 1990s. Franjo Tudjman, leading politician of secessionist Croatia, at the time, had not only played down the crimes at Jasenovac, but even glorified the Ustasha. Bonn helped to impose international acceptance of Croatia’s secession under Tudjman’s leadership, thereby paving the way for the rise to power of Croatia’s extreme right.
The controversy, centering on the commemoration ceremonies in Austria’s Bleiburg, is the most recent in Croatia’s rightwing development. From the public’s perspective, this is particularly tied in with two aspects: one being the current attempt to play down the crimes Croatia’s Nazi collaborators had committed in the Jasenovac Concentration Camp. Jasenovac was the only World War II concentration camp that was not run by Germans. Historians have evidence that between 85,000 and 100,000 people, among them 52,000 Serbs, up to 18,000 Jews and more than 16,000 Roma, had been systematically liquidated by Croat fascists. Since March, a film entitled “Jasenovac – the Truth” is being shown around Croatia, as well as in Croat expatriate communities – also in Germany. The film calculates the total number of the murdered to be between 20,000 and 40,000 and euphemizes the extermination camp as a “labor camp.” The official number of deaths, according to the documentary, is based “on communist propaganda.” The film, which is arousing a growing interest among Croats, recently received a boost through praise from Croatia’s Minister of Culture. “Jasenovac – the Truth” is helpful, said Minister Zlatko Hasanbegović, because it “speaks to a series of taboos.”
The Axis Powers Perspective
That Hasanbegović was appointed, January 22, Minister of Culture is also considered an expression of the country’s rightwing development. In the early 90s, Hasanbegović was active in an organization of Ustasha loyalists. In 1996, for example, he published articles in the publication “Nezavisna Država Hrvatska” (“Independent State of Croatia”), which was identical with the name of the Ustasha state founded in 1941. He was also a member of the HČSP Party (Hrvatska čista stranka prava, the “Croatian Pure Party of Rights”). As a historian, Hasanbegović’s scholarly work had been concentrated on “playing down Ustasha crimes” and “taking seriously the perspective of the Axis Powers, rather than limiting the view to that of the Allies.” He alleges that this is important because current historiography is under the control of an “Israeli lobby.” As the sole Muslim in the current Croat government, he is also engaged in “shedding a new light” on the Bosnian-Muslim Handshar Division of the Nazi’s Waffen SS. He considers the Handschar Division’s assistant Imam, Husein Djozo, to be one of the “Bosnian Muslims’ most remarkable and interesting personalities.”
A while ago, Hasanbegović had suggested a reduction of state finances for the annual commemoration activities in Jasenovac. He, simultaneously, began to take part in commemoration festivities in Bleiburg, Austria, where Croatian right-wingers annually hold memorial ceremonies for the Ustasha combatants and other Nazi collaborators, killed in May 1945 by Yugoslav partisans. While the minister of culture is now praising the euphemization of crimes committed in Jasenovac, Croatia’s parliament has passed a bill to provide financial support to the Bleiburg memorial events. Alongside the chair of the governing HDZ Party, Tomislav Karamarko, several ministers and possibly even Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković are expected to attend tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) event. Observers refer to a “culture war” – an attempt to systematically push the political spectrum to the right to lay the groundwork for an eventual assault on the country’s liberal democracy.
This rightwing development currently making headway in Croatia had, in fact, been launched back at the beginning of the 1990s. The militarily induced collapse of Yugoslavia, at the time, permitted the far right in Croatia to take over the top leadership positions in the newly formed state. The Federal Republic of Germany had performed the obstetrics by supporting the ultra-rightwing Croat separatists long before the developments in the 1990s had even begun. By breaking up Yugoslavia, Bonn sought to weaken Belgrade’s potential resistance to Germany’s policies toward southeast Europe. The victors of World War I had a reason for planning the creation of Yugoslavia. With this proficient state, they had hoped to hinder new German forays into the Southeastern Europe. In its promotion of Croatian separatism, Bonn was also shoring up the future president Franjo Tudjman (german-foreign-policy.com reported ) – in spite of his euphemization of the Jasenovac extermination camp, as a “transit and labor camp,” in which, at most, “30,000 – 40,000 prisoners died.” Tudjman also venerated the Ustasha state of the Croat Nazi collaborators, as a glorious “expression of the Croatian people’s quest for independence and sovereignty.” In spite of British-French warnings of an escalation of the war, the German government surged ahead to recognize the Croatian state, December 23, 1991. Those who benefited most were the strongest and most resolute faction of the separatists under Tudjman’s leadership.
Years ago, Gregor Mayer impressively described the – predictable – resulting development on Croatia’s society, once, with Bonn’s help, the far-right was reinforced in Zagreb. Already during in the secessionist war, the “frontline soldiers and volunteers (…) were greeting each other with the Ustasha’s ‘Za Dom Spremni!’ (‘For the Fatherland, Ready!’)” and singing Ustasha songs. Under Tudjman’s leadership, “streets and squares were renamed in rapid succession” – often given names of Ustasha leaders, such as the “Nazi ideologue, Mile Budak.” “Ustasha functionaries returning from emigration, seeped into state administrations and educational systems,” Mayer reports. Even the Catholic Church was glorifying the Ustasha. Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic’s “only mistake” was that he “allowed the Croatian state to disappear,” was said during a mass in downtown Zagreb. “The ‘cleansing’ and piecing together of the country’s history was also taking place in schoolbooks, and becoming firmly anchored in broad sectors of Croatia’s population,” Mayer notes. The “manipulations carried out by the founding fathers” have created “a ‘socially acceptable’ image of the history and society” that “radical right-wingers and neo-Nazis can still refer to.” Germany had supported Tudjman – in its efforts to form Europe along the lines of its hegemonic plans.
For more on this topic see The Era of Revisionism (I).
[Footnotes to articles in German removed]  Minister says photo yet another attempt to vilify him. about.hr 10.02.2016.  Paul Hockenos: Croatia’s Far Right Weaponizes the Past. foreignpolicy.com 06.05.2016.
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