Friday, April 14, 2017

Israel's History - a Picture a Day (Beta) A Post-Script to American Interests in the Holy Land An Incredible Picture from the Rijksmuseum

Israel's History - a Picture a Day (Beta)

Posted: 13 Apr 2017 08:01 PM PDT
The world's great libraries and archives continue to digitize and post photographic treasures.  We publish this photo from the archives of the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam. With its amazing resolution, this photo from the Bonfils studio reveals fascinating details, including the American Consulate inside the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem's Old City.

Inside the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem, See "Bonfils" signature on the bottom right. The Rijksmuseum
dates the picture as "circa 1895-1915." Several historical facts dictate it was taken prior to 1898.
Here are some of the interesting details in the photo:

1. The moat on the right side of the photo behind the shops was filled in in 1898 so that German Emperor Wilhelm's carriage could ride into the city through a breach in the wall. The picture, therefore, was taken before 1898.

2. While attempts were made to appoint an American Consul already in the 1830s, the American Consulate was established in the Old City in the latter half of the 1800s.

Centered in Bonfils' photo is the American Consulate building, obtained in 1857, with the U.S. seal on the second story window. 

Note the American seal (eagle) on the building.
A drawing and blueprint of the building can be found in Ruth Kark's American Consuls in the Holy Land, 1832-1914.

Kark's book states that this picture was drawn by an American traveler and cites a report in the U.S. National
Archives by U.S. Consul Frank deHass on April 28, 1877. Note the U.S. flag.
Bonfils photographs for sale
3. Other oddities in the Bonfils photo include an advertisement for Bonfil's own photographs. Pictures and postcards were major tourist souvenirs.

4. Note the advertisement for the Thomas Cook Tourist Agency.  Many of the major visits and expeditions to the Holy Land were outfitted by Cook's.

5.  Also note the advertisement for "Valero." The Jewish Valero family arrived in the 1840s and opened the first private bank in the land.  Their office was inside the Old City. A detailed feature on the Valeros appeared in these pages in July 2012. The family also held valuable areas of Jerusalem real estate outside of the Old City.

Chaim Aharon Valero (1845-1923)

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What Is Donald Trump Going To Do? Boeing Company now looking for US government approval to to sell Iran 60 jets,

What Is Donald Trump Going To Do?

The Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which Boeing wants to sell to Iran
During the presidential campaign, two major issues that Donald Trump ran on were: opposition to the Iran deal with no loosening of sanctions, and stimulating job growth in the United States.

With Boeing Company now looking for US government approval to to sell Iran 60 jets, Trump has a decision to make.

If Trump approves the deal:
- Thousands of jobs will be created in the US.
- Sanctions against Iran go out the window, and Iran will reap the results of megadeals with companies around the world; its economy and military capabilities will surge.
- Iranian aggression will increase as it becomes emboldened by having beaten the "great Satan"; Israel and the Middle East will be increasingly threatened. 

If Trump does not approve the deal:
- An economic opportunity is missed, no new US jobs are created due to no deal, with no stimulus to the US economy.
- The US maintains the high ground by maintaining the sanctions against Iran currently in place, stifling Iran and hopefully, its nuclear and weapons programs.
- Iran will attempt to sign deals with other countries only too willing to abide, while the US applies pressure against them from doing so.
- While Iranian economic and military modernization may be stymied in the short term, other countries will ignore the sanctions and overlook Iranian aggression in the Middle East (and elsewhere), and eventually try to sell to Iran anyway.

What is Donald Trump going to do?


Mark Langfan on the Palestinian-Arab Demographic Terror Threat

Yesterday we wrote about the threat Israel faces from the north. Today we focus on another threat: that of mass Arab immigration into land currently controlled by the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria.

AFSI's chairman, Mark Langfan, spells it out succinctly in his latest article in Arutz Sheva:
The problem is, if a 'West Bank State' is created, or even if substantial contiguous pockets of Palestinian Arab control are really created, and the PA is granted the sovereign right to import population, the PA would clearly be able to bring many of the so-called 8,000,000 Palestinian refugees into its state.  And the Palestinian Arabs can invite anyone else they want into their state, including thousands of Hezbollah and tens of thousands of Iranian volunteers for Palestine.

One of the many famous "Langfan maps"

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Syria’s Civil War Produces a Clear Winner: Hezbollah

Syria’s Civil War Produces a Clear Winner: Hezbollah

The Lebanese militant group, labeled a terror organization by the U.S., has grown stronger through its support of the Assad regime, battling Syrian rebels alongside Russian forces and training local Shiite fighters

Few wars have seen such a tangle of combatants as Syria’s, from obscure and morphing rebel groups to Russians, Turks, Kurdish and Iraqi militias. From the chaos, one clear winner is emerging.

Returning to his ancestral Syrian town of Qusayr after years away, a man named Mohammed discovered a new militia patrolling the neighborhood. Patches on the men’s camouflage uniforms called them the Islamic Resistance of Syria. Their identity became clearer when he found a notice on his house claiming it for Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group.

“Many houses have been confiscated with notices that they’ve been reserved for this or that family,” Mohammed said.

Hezbollah, founded in the early 1980s to fight Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon, became involved in the civil war next door to protect its patrons in Damascus and a supply line of Iranian weapons. After years of growing engagement, including training thousands of mostly Shiite Muslim fighters and beginning to provide social services, Hezbollah is today stronger, more independent and in command of a new Syrian militia that its officials say is ready to be deployed to other conflicts in the region.

Hezbollah now fights alongside Russian troops, its first alliance with a global power. It was Hezbollah that devised the battlefield plan for Aleppo used by Syrian and Russian forces last year, according to Arab and U.S. officials who monitor the group.

Thanks to money and arms from Tehran, Hezbollah now stands almost on a par with Iran as a protector of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, and as a sponsor of Shiite fighting forces in Syria.

“It’s hard to see people rising through Syrian intelligence or military ranks without the blessing of Hezbollah or the Iranians,” said Andrew Exum, until January a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East.

With its growing might, this arch-foe of Israel, a group long labeled terrorist by the U.S., has gained a modicum of international recognition. It participated in negotiations sponsored by Russia following the rout of rebels from Aleppo. When China’s special envoy to Syria visited Lebanon in December, he carved out time to see Hezbollah’s foreign-relations chief.

Even before the Syrian civil war, Hezbollah had evolved beyond its guerrilla-group origins into a business and political enterprise that holds positions in Lebanon’s government and runs social programs such as schools and clinics. Now it is poised to capitalize on what many Middle East analysts expect will be an eventual end to the Syrian war that leaves Mr. Assad in power. Syria will have $180 billion of war-reconstruction needs, by a World Bank estimate. Hezbollah has experience at that. After a 2006 conflict with Israel, the group efficiently organized the rebuilding of battered Beirut suburbs.

“Hezbollah is well-positioned to make a lot of money” from Syrian reconstruction, said Matthew Levitt, director of the Washington Institute’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, a veteran of the Treasury and State departments.
U.S. and Israeli officials have watched the growth of Hezbollah with concern, worried it could draw on its Syrian recruits to pressure Israel from a new front along the Golan Heights, captured by Israel 50 years ago. In March, Hezbollah announced the formation of a Syria-based “Brigade for the Liberation of the Golan” devoted to wresting the heights back for Syria.

“Israel knows that what has happened in Syria has changed Hezbollah, which has developed from not just defending against Israel, but attacking it,” said a senior official from an alliance of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. “It has now developed traditional and nontraditional means of war. It fights like a guerrilla army but also like a conventional one.”

Israel hasn’t waited for a Hezbollah attack in the Golan, sending aircraft to strike Iranian shipments of sophisticated arms to Hezbollah.

Premier Benjamin Netanyahu told President Donald Trump during a February U.S. visit that Hezbollah’s expanded arsenal also endangers American warships in nearby waters, said diplomats briefed on the meeting.

The U.S. is well aware of Hezbollah’s expanding capabilities and will continue working closely with partners in the region to address threats the militant group poses, a State Department official said, adding that disrupting Hezbollah’s terrorist and military capabilities was a top U.S. priority.

Hezbollah’s new clout is adding to fears among Gulf states that Iran’s power also is growing, drawing Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to agree to work with Israel. Their focal point is now Yemen, where Mr. Trump has agreed to provide a Saudi-led alliance with stepped-up U.S. military assistance to counter the Houthis, who were trained by Hezbollah and supported by Iran. The Gulf states, in turn, have tentatively agreed to try to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table with Israel.

Religious power
Hezbollah’s role has implications for eventual postwar arrangements in Syria, given how its religious influence will likely compete with the secular politics of the Assad regime. Before the war, that government was improving relations with Saudi Arabia and once even considered a peace treaty with Israel. The improved ties have broken down, with the Saudis supporting Syrian rebel groups. Diplomats in the region say any normalization of relations after the war ends, likely with Mr. Assad still in power, will be even more difficult given Hezbollah and Iran’s newfound clout in Syria.

Hezbollah has helped the Assad regime survive partly by propping up its undisciplined military, which is plagued by corruption and defections. In Syrian villages retaken from rebel control, Hezbollah fighters have been seen holding Syrian soldiers by the wrist or collar and forcing them to return appliances or furniture looted from homes.

Syrian civilians say Hezbollah fighters sometimes openly disrespect Syrian troops on battlefronts, a stark change from its previous deference. Cars with blacked-out windows and Lebanese license plates screech up to Syrian checkpoints, the Hezbollah commanders inside refusing to get off their phones during identification checks or to answer questions posed by their Syrian allies.

When Russia and Syria wanted to put priority on retaking Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa last year, Hezbollah, along with Iran, insisted the focus instead be dislodging rebels from Aleppo to force them to the negotiating table, according to Mr. Exum and a Hezbollah official.

The strategy worked. The rebels evacuated Aleppo and agreed to participate in Russian-sponsored political negotiations now taking place in locations outside Syria.

When formed in the 1980s, Hezbollah was trained by Iran’s Quds Force, an arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that manages Iranian clients across the region. Hezbollah gave Lebanon’s disenfranchised Shiite community political power and won its loyalty by providing free schooling and health care in addition to protection.

Militarily, it remained a guerrilla force, better at launching rockets from the bushes than spearheading offensives on urban centers—until Syria’s civil war began in 2011. After wading in to protect its Iranian arms flow, Hezbollah stepped up its military commitment to counter Sunni extremists such as Islamic State, which regards Shiite Muslims such as Hezbollah as infidels. Hezbollah expanded its arsenal by gaining access to Russian and Syrian weapons under the cover of the civil war’s chaos.

Shipments from Iran gave the Lebanese group precise and powerful armaments that it previously lacked, such as Russian-made Yakhont missiles, said a former State Department official. Cooperation with Russia on the battlefield further increased the flow of weaponry.

“Russian stocks are open to Hezbollah,” said a Hezbollah official who travels frequently to Damascus. “Our fighters eat and sleep alongside theirs and we’re sharing everything, always.” While an end to Syria’s civil war could change the dynamics, Middle East analysts generally think Hezbollah’s expanded access to weapons is secure.

Damascus was once considered a Hezbollah proxy master, but Western diplomats say the Lebanese group is carving out its own zones of influence across Syria by training local fighters. They include Shiites and Alawites, the latter being adherents of a branch of Shiite Islam that includes the Assad family.

Western diplomats estimate the number of these fighters loyal to Hezbollah’s command, which Hezbollah calls al-Ridha Forces, and known locally as “Hezbollah in Syria,” in the tens of thousands. Hezbollah officials say it is lower. Hezbollah’s presence in Syria stretches 250 miles from the northern tip to the south, longer than the length of Lebanon.

Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to both Iraq and Syria, said the autonomy Hezbollah enjoys in Syria arises partly because “Iraq is more important for Iran in many ways than Syria is,” while to Hezbollah, next-door Syria is more important.

Messrs. Crocker and Exum said Hezbollah’s strategy in Syria mirrors the Lebanese group’s involvement in Iraq after the 2003 U.S. invasion. At that time, Hezbollah provided training inside Iran to Iraqi Shiite militiamen. Iran relied on Arabic-speaking Hezbollah officers to bridge a language gap that Iran’s Farsi-speaking Quds Force couldn’t overcome. A collateral result was to seed a Hezbollah social influence in parts of Iraq that persists.

In Syria, Hezbollah is playing for lasting political and social influence, Western and Arab diplomats say. The group has broadened its mandate from countering Israel to fighting Sunni extremist groups across the region to protect religious minorities—not only Shiites but also Christians. It has begun replicating inside Syria the social programs that brought it loyalty and political success at home.

Hezbollah has created a Syrian branch of its Imam al-Mahdi youth movement, a Boy Scouts-type group whose Facebook page shows videos of children getting coloring books, saluting at military parades and somersaulting over fire pits. Part of the idea is to funnel young people to Hezbollah-sponsored local fighting groups and to the larger ranks of Syrian civilians—accountants, hairdressers and farmers—who maintain a fierce dedication to what they call the resistance.

Among Hezbollah supporters in Syria, deference to the Damascus regime is eroding. Photos on the walls in Syrian towns show dead fighters, described as martyrs, against a backdrop of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei. There are few photos of Mr. Assad.

Coffins of Syrians who fought with Hezbollah used to come home draped with both Syria’s flag and Hezbollah’s bright yellow banner showing a green hand holding up a rifle. Over the past year, they have started arriving with just the Hezbollah flag.

War spoils
In Qusayr, the Syrian town where Hezbollah has confiscated homes for its supporters, Hezbollah militants held a military parade in November showcasing antiaircraft systems and tanks. “To host a military parade commending yourselves in another country is as bold as you can get,” said a former State Department official. “It’s telling your masters ‘We’re here now.’ ”

The boldness carries over to the negotiating table in talks to decide Syria’s fate. Hezbollah has dangled offers to Syrian rebel groups weary of fighting. A pending deal with one called Saraya Ahl Alsham, in the southwest Syrian town of Qalamoun, would allow people who fled to return with a promise of protection from Syrian government prosecution or conscription. Hezbollah has said it would guarantee the agreement.

“Hezbollah is in charge of the whole region, and they control everything here,” said Abu Ishak, a spokesman for Saraya Ahl Alsham. Tweaking an Arabic proverb to describe the Syrian regime’s absence from the negotiating table, he said, “Hezbollah designs it, and the Syrian regime wears it.”

Israel's Northern Front: A Large And Growing Threat

Israel's Northern Front: A Large And Growing Threat


There has been ominous evidence for some time now that Israel's northern front has become exceedingly more dangerous, with the growth, experience and sophistication of the terrorist organization Hezbollah. Born in the 1980's as a local Lebanese guerrilla force, Hezbollah now has the trappings of an army to be contended with on several fronts. While maintaining its grip on Lebanon, especially in the south, over the past few years it has shifted its focus to Syria, fighting the mainly Sunni terrorist groups there, and assisting Iran in preventing the downfall of President Assad and his regime. In Syria, despite significant losses in manpower, Hezbollah has gained valuable fighting experience.

Along with its increased military capabilities, Hezbollah's threat to Israel has grown significantly. It now possesses at least 150,000 missiles - more than that possessed by most countries - with many pointed at Israel. By allying itself with Iran in Syria, Hezbollah has been transformed into a strategic threat to Israel and is a force to be contended with.

Israel has been watching the situation in Lebanon and Syria very closely, and there are regular reports of Israeli strikes in Syria, with the aim of interdicting shipments of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

These developments have raised the following question in Israel, which has been debated at the highest levels: What is the greater threat to the country, Hezbollah, with its 150,000+ missiles and capable fighting force, or Iran, with its long range ballistic missiles, ongoing nuclear weapons program, and growing threat to the entire Middle East and beyond?

There are those who maintain that the immediate, short-term threat from Hezbollah is more critical, as its missiles can now hit the entire country, and now with enhanced guidance systems, can be aimed at specific sites.

Others posit that Iran is the "mother of all threats", and thus dealing with Iran should be given priority.

Whichever side gains sway, by necessity, Israel continues to develop and deploy defensive and offensive systems to deal with all threats, short and long term.

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal contains an in-depth report on Hezbollah, which can be accessed by subscription HERE. Interestingly, the article is available unedited and in full via this link (click HERE), which is the website Pakistan Defence.

The Jerusalem Post ran the following article about a week ago: WHAT THREATENS ISRAEL THE MOST - HEZBOLLAH ROCKETS OR IRANIAN NUKES?, which lays out the arguments of both sides.

Today, the Jerusalem Post published two pertinent articles which merit reading:

Monday, April 3, 2017

Air Force 1-A for South Africa President Zuma, the current South Africa leader.- U.S. Aid to S.A over $571,000,000!

Air Force 1-A for South Africa

President Zuma, the current South Africa leader.
 President Zuma, is the current leader of South Africa. He has purchased the most expensive aircraft in the world for his own personal use and those of his hirelings and underlings.
 BOEING 747-8 for President Jacob Zuma
Welcome aboard the custom-built plane that makes Air Force One look likeThe Wright Brothers' first effort.  These extraordinary images show an enormous jumbo jet that has been converted into a luxury home for ZUMA

Complete with bedrooms, multiple lounges and an on board restaurant.

The custom-built Boeing 747 is believed to have cost South African taxpayers $400million.

Making it one of the most expensive purchases of all time.
 The jumbo jet would normally carry up to 600 passengers – but this version was built for just one insane man, although he will be able to fit dozens of guests.

The level of luxury is out of this world.

The plane wouldn't look out of place on Cribs.

Of course cable television and Internet are among the perks.

No need to fight for sofa space either, just the 14 TVs dotted about the vessel.
More sleeping space is provided in the "aeroloft" on the top deck of the vessel, with eight double beds for passengers who prefer to get some shut-eye on flights.

You know it's good when your plane has a stateroom.

Look out for this baby flying above you.
 Does the United States of America provide aid to South Africa?
 Yup- over $571,000,000!
Does Canada provide aid to South Africa?
Yup - over $120,000,000!
Enough to pay for this toy, with a little ($291,000,00) in change leftover.
Isn't it heartwarming to see how our "Foreign Aid" is benefiting the underprivileged of other countries.