Earlier this month, Meir Dagan resigned as Mossad’s 10th director. Unlike his predecessor Ephraim Halevy, who was renowned for his cautious approach to intelligence gathering, Dagan was noted for his boldness and originality. He had an uncompromising belief in Israel’s security, and under his leadership, Mossad pulled off a string of brilliant operations that have already become the stuff of legend. It is quite a legacy.

Dagan came to office vowing to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions and confront her terrorist allies, Syria and Hezbullah. In the years that followed, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure was targeted in a series of covert operations, many linked to Israeli intelligence.

In 2006, there was a mysterious explosion in the Natanz underground facility caused by foreign saboteurs. Further delays at Natanz were the result of faulty equipment purchased abroad, with the Iranians discovering later that this rogue material came from front companies set up by Mossad. Mysterious explosions rocked an Iranian nuclear laboratory and brought down planes carrying scores of Revolutionary Guards.

Then two of Iran’s leading nuclear scientists died in targeted assassinations, with both deaths attributed by British intelligence to Mossad double agents. Two more leading figures in the Iranian programme, both possessing vital information, defected to America claiming they were brought out of Iran with the help of the Israelis.

Then in 2010, much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure was hit by the powerful Stuxnet computer virus, an extremely sophisticated cyber weapon that was most likely produced by a nation state. There is no way of knowing whether all these operations were sponsored by Mossad; the organisation routinely denies involvement. But according to one expert on the organisation, Dagan’s relentless focus on Iran has ‘delayed the completion of the (nuclear) program.’

Another blow to Iran, in particular its terrorist proxy Hezbullah, was the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh in 2008. Since 2002 Dagan had vowed to hunt down this ‘godfather of terror’ who had been responsible for hundreds of American and Israeli deaths in suicide bombings. Mughniyeh had changed his appearance through facial surgery and took a number of precautions to avoid capture.

Yet after years of painstaking research, and a series of lucky breakthroughs, Mossad agents located their man in Damascus. His subsequent death in a car bomb was a form of poetic justice. Under Dagan’s watch, Israel also carried out Operation Orchard, an audacious attack on a Syrian nuclear plant. Though it was an operation of the Israeli air force, it required prior investigative work by Mossad.

In London, Israeli agents planted a Trojan horse in the laptop of a Syrian official, allowing them to discover Syria’s clandestine plans for a nuclear facility. Israeli agents then secretly entered Syria to collect soil samples around the suspected site. This provided vital additional evidence before Israel’s subsequent air strikes destroyed the nuclear facility. Mossad was also widely credited with the assassination of General Mohammed Suleiman, Bashar Assad’s chief military advisor, at his villa in Syria.

Suleiman was reportedly trying to re-start the Syrian programme when he was killed. Dagan’s tenure of Mossad provides clear lessons about the importance of intelligence for Israel. The first and most obvious one is that the Jewish state must always stay one step ahead of its enemies in order to survive. Given its small size and the multiple threats posed by its neighbours, Israel cannot rely solely on her fabled military strength. First class intelligence is a necessary weapon in the country’s armoury. Here, knowledge truly is power.

The second is that there is usually a high price to pay for top grade intelligence. Unlike other spy organisations that rely primarily on electronic surveillance, Mossad agents have long penetrated the most hostile states in order to bring back vital information. In other words, human intelligence is the key to the organisation’s success. Knowing this lesson, Dagan launched the most audacious operations inside hostile terrain, with outstanding results from his dedicated agents.

Thirdly, he knew the old adage that weakness, rather than strength, emboldens Israel’s enemies. Amid the predictable wreckage of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it was Israel’s recent military and intelligence triumphs, and not her endless concessions, that won her respect in some Arab circles. No wonder one Egyptian daily called Dagan ‘Israel’s superman.’

Certainly there were mistakes on his watch, such as his failure to anticipate the menace on the Turkish flotilla. But these were small compared to his triumphs against Israel’s enemies. If Dagan really has delayed Iran’s nuclear programme, and deterred Syria and Hezbullah, he deserves to be regarded as a national hero.


Now that the ‘pharaoh’ has gone, it is tempting to view Egypt as the catalyst for an Arabic ‘velvet revolution’. Just as the collapse of the Berlin Wall heralded the end of communism in Eastern Europe, there is talk of regime change across the Middle East. A new era of participatory democracy is promised.

Amid the upheaval, Israel has been criticised for its rather lukewarm response. Shmuley Boteach recently wrote that Israel was ‘missing a once in a lifetime historic opportunity to support Arab freedom’ and risked mimicking Obama’s ‘moral neutrality’ over the Green Revolution. But Israelis do not fear genuine democracy. What they do fear, with good reason, is the popular legitimation of religious extremists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. It is the revolution of 1979, not 1989, that exorcises them.

To see why this is not scaremongering, one must look at Egyptian politics today. Egypt has three main secular parties which, collectively, lack the organisation and mass popular appeal of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2005, the Brotherhood won nearly 20% of parliamentary seats and they might have done better last year without blatant election rigging. In renewed elections, they could gain over a quarter of the vote, giving them a commanding position in the Egyptian parliament.

Naturally this will depend on whether the Egyptian military elite, whose power has been strengthened by Mubarak’s removal, decides to hold free and fair elections. For some, the rise of the Brotherhood is little cause for concern. Director of US National Intelligence, James Clapper, recently described the group as ‘largely secular,’ declaring further that they had ‘eschewed violence’ and were busy pursuing ‘social ends.’

This sanguine view reflects recent statements made by Muslim Brotherhood spokesmen. These individuals have been keen to downplay their organisation’s ambitions for power and have spoken of co-operating with other parties and political candidates. But this appearance of goodwill is part of an elaborate display of smoke and mirrors. For the Muslim Brotherhood is committed neither to constitutional democracy nor the freedoms that go with it.

As the biggest Islamist party in the world, its purpose is to build an Islamic caliphate and to spread Sharia law across the globe. Its advocates embrace non violence only because their ‘grand jihad’ is predicated on ‘eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within.’ This anti Western jihad, in other words, is spread by means of subversion, infiltration and propaganda. They are only willing to co-operate with other parties if it gives them a foothold in Parliament.

Their ultimate aim is to create a tyrannical, anti libertarian state through apparently legal means. Hitler used the same tactics. Once he was appointed Chancellor in 1933, he manipulated the Reichstag into granting the Nazis emergency powers. Those powers were then used to systematically dismantle the structures of Weimar democracy. We all know the consequences.

Some argue that an Islamist government in Cairo would nullify the peace treaty with Israel. That is not the immediate danger, given the financial ramifications that would be involved. But there is a danger that an Islamist government would cancel intelligence and security co-operation with Israel. In its place there might be greater co-operation between Egypt and Hamas, involving arms smuggling and financial support.

No wonder that Benjamin Netanyahu talked of preparing for ‘any outcome’ on Israel’s southern flank. The quandary over the Brotherhood brings us to the heart of a more fundamental question: what do we really mean by liberal democracy? Democracy is clearly not the same thing as holding an election. It is about having an independent judiciary, a workable police force, a free press, checks and balances between the executive and the legislature, a separation of church and state and the guarantee of certain inalienable freedoms, such as the right to protest.

In essence, it involves a population that is free under the law. Yet democracy cannot be built overnight and without stable foundations, the result is chaos and violence. Iran’s version of democracy is to have a Supreme Leader who controls the police and judiciary. Democracy Hamas style consists of throwing opponents off rooftops and cancelling elections. For Hezbullah, it is about igniting a bloody civil war in Lebanon. Certainly, the Middle East is in desperate need of democratic transformation.

But if the effect of the street protests is to replace one form of tyranny with another, then the cause of freedom will go into reverse. Israel has sound reasons for fearing that the Egyptian revolution may be another 1979 in slow motion.


Judging by his recent comments, Ken Livingstone remains unrepentant about his support for Sheikh Qaradawi. The cleric, he recently declared, represented “the main progressive strand of Islam” and “the main theological opposition to the real hate preachers.” He accused those who condemn Qaradawi of “smear” tactics and unthinkingly accepting propaganda from pro Israeli websites.

But Qaradawi is a very strange kind of Islamic progressive. As well as advocating domestic violence against ‘disobedient’ wives and supporting female genital mutilation, he has expressed repugnant views on homosexuality. In a recent book, he condemned homosexuals as “perverted” and “abominable” and declared on Arabic websites that the correct punishment for them was execution.

He has regularly praised Palestinian suicide bombings, regarding every Israeli citizen as a legitimate target. Such wholesale demonisation is hardly surprising when you consider Qaradawi’s views on Jewry. He recently said that Holocaust victims were “divinely punished for their corruption” and promised that their next punishment “would be at the hands of the believers.” With progressives like these, who needs extremists?

Livingstone has tried to distance himself from Qaradawi’s homophobia. But when it comes to Israel, the former mayor has often parroted the Sheikh’s warped views. For one thing, Livingstone’s condemnation of suicide bombing frequently stops when it comes to the Palestinians. Shortly after the 7/7 bombings, he said: “Given that the Palestinians don't have jet fighters, they only have their bodies to use as weapons. In that unfair balance, that's what people use.” This was a direct attempt to justify the mass murder of Israeli civilians, a sentiment Qaradawi could scarcely have improved upon.

Then in an interview after the 7/7 bombings, he asked why it was that “a young Jewish boy in this country” could legitimately join the IDF and “end up killing many Palestinians” while “a young Muslim boy in this country” would be “branded as a terrorist” for defending “his Palestinian brothers and sisters.” Leaving aside the slur about divided loyalties, this comparison between fighting for an internationally recognised army and carrying out terrorist acts for a Jew hating terrorist organisation would have struck many as odious, absurd even. More to the point, such language in the aftermath of a callous act of mass murder was intensely provocative. He was inviting British Muslims to view their Jewish counterparts, not as co-nationals, but as potential recruits for a foreign war.

To stoke up community tensions in this way was reprehensible. Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg as Livingstone has a long track record of making incendiary remarks about the Jewish state. He has charged Israel with using “systematic violence and terror aimed at ethnically cleansing” and likened Ariel Sharon to a “war criminal”. During Operation Cast Lead he accused Israel of the “slaughter and systematic murder of innocent Arabs” while on an earlier occasion, he decried how Israel’s actions were “fuelling anger and violence across the world.”

There was of course very little global anger when thousands of rockets were raining down on Israeli towns. Livingstone always denies making direct comparisons between Israel’s actions and those of Nazi Germany. But during the 1982 Lebanon war, the Labour Herald, a paper he co-edited, printed a cartoon depicting Menachem Begin as a demented Nazi. Begin was shown wearing an SS uniform and as he stood upon a pile of corpses, he raised his right arm in a Nazi salute. Below him the caption read, ‘The Final Solution.’

In 1983 he offered further gratuitous offence to Holocaust survivors by saying that Britain’s treatment of Irish Catholics was ‘worse than what Hitler did to the Jews.’ He was at it again in 2006 when he likened the debate on the Muslim veil to “the demonology of Nazi Germany” in relation to its Jewish population. And there were his comments to Evening Standard reporter, Oliver Finegold, in which he compared the journalist to a concentration camp guard.

​In all these cases, the experience of Jewish suffering was trivialised by specious comparisons. In many ways, Livingstone is a thoroughly typical member of Britain’s hard left. This conspiracy addicted political grouping has long had a problem with Israel, Zionism and the purported political power of ‘the Jewish lobby.’

But in other respects, he is a typical Westminster politician with a careful eye on gathering the city’s Muslim votes. It would be pointless asking Ken Livingstone to apologise for his offensive comments. But if London’s Jews abandon him in next year’s Mayoral election, he should not be surprised.


In the next few days Benjamin Netanyahu will meet President Obama and address Congress in what could prove to be a defining week for his premiership. A number of voices across the Israeli political spectrum are urging Bibi to redouble efforts in the Middle East peace process by offering more concessions to the Palestinians. They want him to prevent a 'diplomatic tsunami' in September when the UN is expected to endorse an independent Palestinian state.

Fortunately, Netanyahu can safely ignore this advice. As the Palestinians are not interested in peace, he will gain far more by spelling out some hard truths about his 'peace partners' and adopting a more robust style of diplomacy.

For starters, he should tell Washington that it is risible to refer to Mahmoud Abbas as a Palestinian moderate. The PA leader has thus far rejected every offer put to him, most notably the far reaching series of concessions proposed by Ehud Olmert. He has demanded one precondition after another for returning to the negotiating table, acting like a petulant child instead of a statesman.

When Netanyahu caved in to American demands for a 10 month settlement freeze, Abbas all but ignored him. In addressing non Western audiences, it is clear that Abbas still longs for a one-state solution. He's repeatedly said that he will not recognise Israel as a Jewish state and reiterated Palestinians would never renege on their 'right of return.' While not advocating another intifada, he encourages incitement against Jews and Israelis.

Only the other day he praised the Naqba day 'martyrs' who were encouraged to storm Israel's borders on three fronts. Other 'martyrs' such as the mass murderer, Dalal Mughrabi, are lionised by having town squares named after them while the Palestinian media uses Nazi imagery to attack Jews. The new unholy alliance between secular Fatah and jihadist Hamas only promises more of the same.

Gaza's tyrannical rulers are ideologically fixated on destroying Israel and demonise world Jewry as a matter of course. Given this appalling cacophany of hate, what can Netanyahu possibly lose by exposing Palestinian leaders for who they truly are? By contrast, offering more concessions will only invite fresh demands. And when talks inevitably collapse, we all know who will be blamed. It's time to tell Washington that the game is up.

Netanyahu should also focus on the enduring strength of the US-Israeli alliance. The last four decades have shown Israel is America's most dependable regional ally and a strategic asset of the highest order. No other country provides the US with more reliable intelligence on regional developments, including the proliferation of WMDs and the behaviour of radical regimes.

The American military benefits from Israeli innovations including microchips and unmanned aerial vehicles. Israel's self defence operations against hostile states have long served vital American interests. The destruction of the Osirak reactor in 1981 denied Saddam Hussein a nuclear device, the only weapon that might have deterred America (and her allies) from intervening in the first Gulf War, while the bombing of Syria's nuclear facility exposed North Korea's role in proliferation. Mossad's covert war against Iran's nuclear infrastructure may be the only thing standing between the mullahs and the bomb.

Israel's actions have helped to deny the most dangerous weapons to the most dangerous regimes and safeguarded Western interests. But above all, the alliance is solid because of shared political values. On her 63rd birthday, Israel remains a vibrant hub of democratic stability in a region beset by uncertainty. Unlike the citizens of other US allies, such as Egypt and Jordan, Israel's population shows unyielding support for America. This gives added depth to the alliance.

​Finally, Netanyahu can re-affirm the vision he set out in his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech. He could once again hold out the prospect of a demilitarised Palestinian state living in peace with its neighbours. But for this to occur, the Palestinians must accept Jewish national self determination. Unless they surrender their genocidal ambitions, there will never be peace. None of this will endear Netanyahu to the American President.

After all, Obama is stubbornly committed to extracting ever more concessions from Israel as part of his relentless drive to appease the 'Muslim world'. But at least Netanyahu will show himself to be a conviction politician who defends his country's interests across the globe.


Recent events in Egypt, Yemen and Libya have exposed the brutal truth about the ‘Arab Spring.’ Instead of ushering in a new era of liberal democracy with freedom for all, it is the jihadists who stand to profit.

The main beneficiary of Egypt’s forthcoming elections will be the radical Muslim Brotherhood, the best organised opposition in the country. Already the country has opened its border to Gaza and improved ties with Iran, developments that were unthinkable under Mubarak. There is also considerable evidence that al-Qa’eda has infiltrated the anti-Gaddafi rebels in Libya while they already have a strong presence in Yemen.

But while the fall of these autocracies may augur badly for the West, this is scarcely true of Syria where the fall of Assad could herald a significant improvement in the region. For unlike President Mubarak, Bashar al-Assad is a murderous rogue who presides over a thoroughly anti western regime.

Under his leadership, Syria remains a prime sponsor of regional terror. It hosts the leaders of Hamas and Islamic jihad and has attracted some of the world’s most notorious terrorists, such as Imad Mugniyeh. Like Iran, Syria provides money and logistical support to Hezbullah in Lebanon.

So it is hardly surprising to hear that Hezbullah units are actively aiding the Syrian army in its brutal crackdown against opponents. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has also been supported by networks across eastern Syria. Abu Ghadiya, a top al-Qaeda operative and a key figure behind the smuggling of foreign fighters in Iraq, was killed by a US air strike inside Syria in 2008.

According to the think tank Nuclear Threat Initiative, Syria also appears to have acquired ‘an indigenous capability to develop and produce chemical weapons agents.’ The country is thought to possess stocks of Sarin gas, mustard gas and VX as well as a biological weapons programme. Syria also has an enormous arsenal of ballistic missiles that are capable of reaching every town in Israel.

But it is Assad’s role as a nuclear proliferator that has proved most alarming. Israel’s air strike on a suspected plutonium plant at Deir al-Zour in 2007 exposed the clandestine connections between Syria and North Korea. Despite Syrian denials and a failure to co-operate with weapons inspectors, the IAEA has officially confirmed that the site was a nuclear reactor.

Taken together, this evidence flatly contradicts the notion that Assad is a moderate who must be engaged for the betterment of the region. As Toby Greene pointed out last week, he has deliberately positioned Syria in the ‘axis of resistance’ to the West. His fall from power would therefore deal a huge blow to the rest of this axis, including Iran, Hezbullah and Hamas. In particular, the loss of Syrian and Iranian influence in Lebanon would directly empower the country’s beleaguered pro democracy movement.

Yet many fear that Assad’s secular Baathist regime could be replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood with dire consequences for the region. It is certainly true that the organisation forms a big slice of the country’s opposition, giving them a significant opportunity to influence the political landscape in the post Assad era. Hence the argument that while Assad is a rogue, he is at least a predictable rogue.

But this line of argument is open to question. It is not clear that the Muslim Brotherhood would do as well in Syria as in Egypt, given that significant minorities, such as the Kurds, actively oppose living under religious tyranny. Both the Sunni led Syrian Reform Party and the Kurdistan National Assembly have called for a genuinely decentralised government that would prevent tyranny from the centre.

In any event, it is far from clear that the pro Iranian, terror supporting, WMD proliferating Assad represents any improvement over a Muslim Brotherhood government. His Baath party may be a bulwark to Islamist rule but it has also created violent, oppressive governments in both Damascus and Baghdad. The region is better off without them.

Instead of calling Assad a ‘reformer’, the US should lead the way in demanding regime change. They should condemn Syria’s ferocious crackdown at every opportunity and lead the way in enforcing the most punitive sanctions against Damascus. They should also offer financial and military support to the opposition, particularly to the country’s Kurdish minority. By contrast, lily livered words and half hearted actions will only embolden Assad and ‘the axis of resistance’.


If we needed any further evidence of the terrible prejudice still lurking within the UN, a recent incident has provided it. Earlier this month, Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights, posted a cartoon on his blog in response to the issuing of an arrest warrant for Colonel Gaddafi by the International Criminal Court.

The cartoon showed a dog wearing a kippa with the word “USA” around his body. While feasting on the bones of a skeleton, it was urinating on a symbol of justice. It was designed to reveal the alleged double standards of ‘Jewish controlled’ America which, by ignoring Israeli actions to focus on Libya, purportedly denigrated the norms of international justice.

After dismissing charges of anti-semitism as ‘a complete lie’, Falk issued a belated apology and removed the cartoon, though not before taking a swipe at the alleged motives of his critics.Yet despite denouncing the cartoon as "anti semitic" and "objectionable", Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner on human rights, did not call for Falk’s resignation.

What makes this particularly galling is that Falk, who is Jewish himself, has a dreadful track record of hatred towards Israel. At the height of the second intifada in 2002, he excused suicide bombings against Israelis on the grounds that "the Palestinian resistance gradually ran out of military options and suicide bombers appeared as the only means still available to inflict sufficient harm on Israel".

By contrast, Israel’s self-defence operations "involved massive violations of international humanitarian law". He has claimed that Israeli policies in Jerusalem amount to a form of "ethnic cleansing’" and "colonialism" and regularly drawn direct comparisons between Israel and apartheid South Africa.

Even worse, he has insulted Holocaust victims by comparing Israeli policy with that of Nazi Germany. In his 2007 article "Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust", he said that developments in Gaza were expressing "a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty" and that the world needed to prevent these "current genocidal tendencies" from "culminating in a collective tragedy".

The words ‘genocide’ and ‘Holocaust’ have the most terrible resonance and constitute nothing less than a deliberate attempt to denigrate and delegitimise the Jewish state. They amount to a twenty-first century blood libel.

But then we can expect little better from a man who has personally endorsed the 9/11 conspiracy movement which claims that the US government was complicit in the attacks.

Yet while Falk’s views are monstrous, they also make him an ideal representative of the UN Human Rights Council. Since its inception in 2006, the Council has launched a virulent and relentless campaign against Israel.

In its first year, it passed no less than 22 resolutions condemning Israel but not a single one condemning Sudan, despite the horrific genocide in Darfur.

The Council also voted to make a review of Israel’s alleged human rights abuses a permanent feature of every council session. Out of 79 resolutions passed by the Council in its first five years, 38 have focused on Israel with just one targeted at each of Syria, Iran and Libya.

Seeing this voting record, a Martian visiting earth would be forced to assume that Israel was a uniquely demonic force among the nations, a serial abuser of human rights without parallel in modern history.

Yet what is truly demonic is how the Council has systematically ignored human rights violations in the world’s worst regimes in order to pursue a partisan campaign against a bastion of democracy. It is a fundamental violation of the principle of equality inherent in the UN Charter.

Yet this is naturally inevitable when you look at the Council’s membership, which currently include such shining champions of liberty as China, Angola, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.

These countries repress their own citizens in the most brutal fashion and use the Council to insulate themselves from criticism. Their collective presence in this institution makes a mockery of human rights.

This September the UN will host two further events calculated to stoke up the cauldron of hate against Israel – the vote for a Palestinian state and the ‘anti racism’ hate fest known as Durban III. Only two responses seem appropriate. Firstly, Congress should make good on its threat to withdraw US funding to the UN. Secondly, Israel, with its western allies, should conduct a sustained and aggressive PR campaign to expose the toxic prejudice within this malign international body.


Anders Breivik’s appalling massacre of the innocents has left many questions unanswered, not least the killer’s motives for the attack. His manifesto, which quotes dozens of prominent libertarians and conservatives, is a rambling, xenophobic tract that contains an unbridled assault on Islam and multiculturalism. He talks of stopping the “Islamic colonisation” of Europe and seeks to reverse the “demographic jihad” of Muslim immigration.

He believes that his country’s elites have sold out to “cultural Marxism” which he blames for a plethora of ills ranging from feminism to political correctness. He pictures himself as a Christian defender of cultural conservatism and, in keeping with paranoid conspiracy theorists, believes America has a “Jewish problem”.

While his crime has caused understandable revulsion, some of the reactions from the political elite have been genuinely disturbing. Norway’s former PM, Thorbjørn Jagland, warned Europe’s leaders to use more caution in criticising multiculturalism and said that they “should not play with fire”.

The Guardian’s Seumas Milne claimed that Breivik’s concerns mirrored “the ideas and fixations of transatlantic conservatives” who had become overly obsessed with radical Islam. He smeared the thinkers quoted on Breivik’s manifesto, such as Robert Spencer and Melanie Phillips, and suggested that their worldview was akin to the killer’s.

The implication is that these polemicists were guilty of a hate crime and that they bear indirect responsibility for Breivik’s actions. Indeed some will argue that because of the massacre in Norway, any criticism of immigration and multiculturalism should now be off limits.

But this is absurd reasoning. If we followed this prescription, we would cease debating animal rights, abortion or any number of controversial topics just because of the criminal actions of extremists. More importantly, there is no logical continuum between having a far right agenda and shooting dead dozens of white Norwegian teenagers. These were clearly the actions of a psychopath, rather than an over zealous political ideologue. To treat Breivik as a rational actor is therefore ridiculous.

Next came the disturbing suggestion that because the Church was not answerable for Breivik’s actions, Islam too should not be held to account for Muslim bombers. In a recent article, Boris Johnson stated emphatically that “we should not ‘blame “Islam” for all acts of terror committed by young Muslim males”. He pictured Breivik as a “pathetic” narcissist with deep feelings of personal inadequacy, before inviting us to view Islamists in the same way.

Again, this is overly simplistic. For one thing, mainstream commentators rarely blame Islam for the actions of Muslim terrorists. Instead they qualify their remarks by talking of ‘Islamist’ attacks and are usually mindful of not tarring all members of a community with the same brush.

In any case, Muslim terrorists are more than just insecure individuals with an opportunist attachment to a cause. Their war is a religious one which takes inspiration from the tenets and holy books of the faith.

Its followers, goaded by imams and ayatollahs, are taught that Islam mandates them to kill and subjugate ‘infidels’ in order to bring about a renewed caliphate.

They attend training camps, mosques and madrassas where they are brainwashed in the totalitarian tenets of jihad. And in countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, these religious teachings are mainstream.

By contrast, Breivik would have been hard pressed to find a church, summer school or youth camp supporting his crusade for white supremacy. No self-respecting pastor would call on Breivik to purge the "undesirables" in order to spread the Word more effectively. His actions were un-Christian in every sense.

But the most chilling reaction to the attacks came from Norway’s ambassador to Israel, Svein Sevye. In a recent interview, he contrasted the terror attacks in his own country and in Israel. Breivik, he said, “had an ideology that says that Norway, particularly the Labour Party, is foregoing Norwegian culture”. By contrast, his countrymen considered “the occupation to be the cause of the terror against Israel”. In other words, when Hamas organise a murderous rampage, Israelis only have themselves to blame.

Leaving aside the embarrassing historical inaccuracy, as shown by the vast number of terror attacks perpetrated before 1967, it is grossly provocative and profoundly immoral to pick and choose which terrorists to condemn.

Terrorism is always beyond the pale, whether its victims live in Oslo, London or Jerusalem. Regardless of the cause, there is no standpoint from which the deliberate and indiscriminate killing of civilians for political ends is ever justified. If there is any lesson from last month’s tragedy, it is surely that one.


In the last month, Israeli citizens in the south of the country have experienced a disturbing upsurge in violence. On 18th August, terrorists from Gaza carried out a carefully co-ordinated attack near Eilat that killed 8 people, mostly civilians.

In the fortnight that followed, Palestinian terrorists fired more than 150 rockets, and scores of mortar shells, at the populations of Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon. This came on top of the many thousands of rockets fired at the south since Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005.

In effect, hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens have been subjected to continuous psychological warfare as they are forced into bunkers at short notice to avoid death or injury.

What is sad about this surge in violence is its sheer predictability. As a result of misguided policy making and the failure to inflict a crushing defeat on Hamas, and other extremists, there remain strong incentives for terror.

The unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was a gift to the Islamists because it gave them a secure base from which to attack the Jewish state. But this mistake has been amplified by misguided western politicians.

In recent years, whenever Israel has undertaken a full scale operation in self defence, she has faced a global diplomatic firestorm. During Operation Cast Lead, the constant refrain from western politicians was that Israel’s actions were ‘disproportionate’.

While issuing the usual platitudes about nations having the right to defend themselves, there was an all too familiar caveat: this should not involve ‘excessive’ force.

The intense diplomatic pressure meant that Cast Lead, like previous military engagements, finished inconclusively. Rather like Hezbullah after the 2006 Lebanon war, Hamas emerged bruised but defiant, with an undiminished appetite for murderous violence.

Naturally it is vacuous to insist on ‘proportionality’. Wars are generally won by excessive or disproportionate force, simply because this is the only means by which to overcome a determined adversary.

The only correct response to sustained terrorism is to deliver a crushing blow to the perpetrators, destroying their ability to wage war on the innocent and deterring future aggression.

By contrast, ‘proportionate’ responses to terrorism result in an endless cycle of attacks and counterattacks, an attritional war with limited consequences for the aggressor. This is precisely what we have seen since 2009 with hundreds of rockets fired from Gaza with only limited Israeli responses.

Israel has absorbed the lessons of diplomatic appeasement in its response to the most recent Gazan provocation. After the Eilat attacks, the Israeli cabinet voted to avoid any response that would escalate the situation in the south. There was no mandate for a large scale operation to end months of terror while a plan to assassinate the Hamas leader was scotched, allegedly at Egypt’s request.

Netanyahu reportedly wanted to avoid a full scale operation against Hamas because he feared a worsening diplomatic crisis with Egypt. One of the Prime Minister’s advisors spoke of a ‘sensitive situation in the Middle East’ while talking of the need to monitor the ‘Palestinian move in the United Nations’.

Certainly, there is a case for co-ordinated security along the Israel-Egypt border. But refusing to adopt tougher measures in Gaza for fear of upsetting the Egyptians is somewhat doubtful.

Let us not forget that Egypt’s military junta opened the country’s border with Gaza, allowing local jihadists to cross into Sinai with quantities of military equipment.

They have embraced the Muslim Brotherhood, now increasingly dominant throughout Egypt, and cultivated ties with Iran. There is also credible evidence that Egyptians were involved in the terrible attacks near Eilat.

An Israeli policy of restraint would surely fail to silence a hostile Egyptian street that already views Jews as a malign enemy and which would, if it could, abrogate the 1979 peace treaty. Indeed hostility to the Jewish state is perhaps the sole factor uniting Egypt’s presidential candidates.

But an Israeli policy of restraint makes even less sense when considered against the background of the Palestinian bid for UN recognition. Israel is sadly powerless to influence proceedings at the UN.

The new Palestinian ‘state’ will receive diplomatic approval simply because of the Arab/Third World/Muslim bloc that dominates the General Assembly. However Israel acts, she faces a certain degree of political isolation and the notion that current military restraint will bring longer term dividends is delusional.

Right now Hamas, and its jihadist friends, do not feel cowed by the IDF. Israel must urgently re-establish its deterrent strength or the jihadist terror war will only worsen.


The events of September 11th, 2001 have left an indelible imprint on all those who witnessed them. The images and sounds of that day have had a lasting and profound impact: the planes crashing into the Twin Towers; heroic firemen raising a flag at Ground Zero; the heart-rending calls made in the imminence of death. For many, this is the defining event of our new century.

To coincide with the tenth anniversary of the attacks, two veteran reporters, Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, have produced The Eleventh Day, described as “the ultimate account of 9/11”. It is the result of five years work delving through a mass of previously unpublished material, including recently declassified documents from the 9/11 Commission. The end product is a genuinely gripping piece of investigative journalism.

The book opens with a vivid, at times, harrowing account of the assault on 9/11 which claimed nearly 3,000 lives. In fact, as the authors point out, the true death toll remains somewhat elusive, given that many thousands of people inhaled toxic dust in the aftermath of the attacks, some of whom have since perished.

Subsequent chapters examine the 9/11 conspiracy theories, the build up to the war in Afghanistan, the emergence of al Qaeda in the 1990s and the role of intelligence in the lead up to the attacks. Despite a rather back to front approach, the narrative is compelling and detailed, supported by a wealth of information and anecdotes.

Summers and Swan rightly dismiss the claims made by the conspiracy movement. They cite a multitude of expert investigations into how the Twin Towers collapsed and how the Pentagon came under attack, studies which overwhelmingly corroborate the official account. In particular, they mention a lengthy investigation into the Pentagon attack which revealed that the extensive remains of the Boeing aircraft were found inside the building, together with the remains of the crew.

These facts, in the view of the authors, render the conspiracy theories “outrageous, cruel insults to the memory of the dead”. Such a withering critique is certainly timely. In a 2008 poll of 16,000 people from around the world, less than half believed that al-Qaeda was responsible for the attacks. Anti semitic conspiracy theories, as the ADL has amply documented, are also rife with many believing that Mossad staged the attacks to further Israeli interests worldwide.

The disturbing thing about these baseless conspiracy theories is that they are a distraction from the palpable failures of the Bush administration. Summers and Swan pull no punches: “The most powerful military nation on the planet had been ill prepared and ill equipped to confront the attacks”.

The Federal Administration Authority was simply “overwhelmed” by events on the day, and communication between different command centres was “muddled”. Indeed an analysis of recordings from those on the ground reveals a state of almost complete panic and confusion.

The FAA had also taken no preventative action, such as safeguarding cockpit security, despite numerous warnings that al-Qaeda would try to hijack planes. And President Bush, who had earlier ignored multiple warnings about the threat posed by al-Qaeda, claimed to have authorised the ‘shooting down’ of the airliners when this order appears to have come from the Vice President. It is not the events of 9/11, so much as the official response to them, that is so mired in controversy.

Indeed the central point made by Summers and Swan is that there was a catastrophic failure of intelligence within the United States. For both the CIA and FBI had learned, several years before 9/11, of plans to attack prominent buildings, including the Trade Centre, using hijacked planes.

More alarmingly, the CIA had information on two of the 19 hijackers which it failed to share with the FBI. The authors speculate that the Agency withheld this information because it was hoping to recruit the men as informants, a far from implausible idea.

The conclusion, that these attacks could have been avoided with “adroit handling, hard work and good luck,” seems hard to refute. But it is a scarcely original thesis. Most of the book’s revelations are already in the public domain so there is little here that we don’t already know.

Nor is it that surprising to learn that those who were backing and funding Bin Laden and his network were not America’s enemies (i.e. Iraq) but her allies (Saudi Arabia and Pakistan). The authors provide compelling evidence of how members of the Saudi royal family paid ‘protection money’ to Bin Laden in order to safeguard their own domestic position. Washington’s decision to cover up this Saudi-al Qaeda connection is rightly condemned as an insult to the American people.


In a speech in Ramallah last Friday, Mahmoud Abbas spelt out the aims of his bid for UN membership. He called for the creation of ‘a Palestinian state on the borders of June 4, 1967’ in order to rectify a ‘historic injustice’. He insisted that east Jerusalem rather than Ramallah become the capital of his new state.

Once ‘Palestine’ had been symbolically recognised, he would return to negotiations and demand the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian ‘refugees’. For good measure, he stressed the ‘national unity between the West Bank and Gaza’.

First and foremost, this attempt to seek membership at the UN is a blatant form of diplomatic warfare. It is designed to increase Israel’s international isolation and stir up the Arab masses on the country’s borders.

Hence the Palestinian President’s repeated calls for ‘mass action’ and ‘popular resistance’ in support of his cause. Abbas is surely hoping that a beleaguered Israel will then make unwarranted concessions to stave off the resulting diplomatic firestorm.

Indeed the Palestinians intend to make their ‘state’ a diplomatic and legal reality, prior to the resumption of any negotiations. Abbas declared that once such a state was recognised, ‘our lands’ would no longer be considered ‘disputed territories’.

Clearly, this move is an outright repudiation of the Palestinian Authority’s prior commitments under the Oslo accords. The whole point of the Oslo peace process was that a state of Palestine was never a sine qua non or an inevitable starting point for negotiations.

It could not be produced through unilateral gestures or a diplomatic fait accompli but had to result from a negotiated settlement. The Palestinians’ strategy, and their callous disregard for international law, is as cynical as it is transparent.

Naturally, the pre-1967 ceasefire lines form an indefensible border which would expose Israel’s coastal plain and civilian communities to attack. These are not the ‘secure boundaries’ laid down in UN resolution 242.

Worse, the Palestinians are demanding control of east Jerusalem with all its holy sites, directly crossing another Israeli red line. Inevitably, when Israel dismisses such terms as draconian, she will be painted as the regional rejectionist. The statehood bid serves another insidious purpose, namely to allow Palestinians greater ease in pursuing Israel through the International Criminal Court.

Once the ICC accepts jurisdiction over the territory of ‘Palestine,’ ordinary Palestinians could overwhelm it with complaints about Israeli policies and offensives, including the presence of troops in the territories.

This was confirmed in a recent interview given by chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat. He declared that the legal status of the new state would be one ‘under occupation by another member state called Israel’.

For the Palestinians, the ICC is the perfect international arbiter for the conflict. Under article 8 of the Rome Statute, the ICC lists the following as a war crime: “The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." This serves Palestinian purposes very well for it can be used to condemn settlement activity, described by the PA as a central obstacle to peace. In reality, when Netanyahu last offered to freeze settlements, Abbas chose to stay away from the negotiating table.

Amazingly, there are still those who insist that Israel should avert a diplomatic disaster by making further concessions to the PA. Yet Abbas has repeatedly stated that he will not recognise Israel as a Jewish state, presumably because that would put in jeopardy the right of return of Palestinian ‘refugees’, some 7 million.

For the record, Palestinian spokesmen also insist that their new state should be ‘Judenfrei’. The Palestinian diplomat, Maen Rashid Areikat, has said it is vital to remove any Jews who fall ‘under the jurisdiction of a Palestinian state’ so as to ensure that the two peoples are ‘separated.’ Mahmoud Abbas has demanded that there be ‘no Jewish soldiers in NATO’ serving in Palestine or ‘a single Israeli among us on Palestinian soil’. Rather predictably, gay people will receive no welcome either. A General Assembly vote for Palestine is thus a shameful endorsement of racism, intolerance and homophobia.

So it is just as well that this Palestinian state remains a fantasy creation. After all, the world scarcely needs another bastion of bigotry in the Middle East. But once again, the Palestinians have shown that when it comes to determining their destiny, they are very much their own worst enemies.


The release of Gilad Schalit this week has prompted a wave of relief and jubilation across Israel. For more than 5 years he has been held captive without access to the Red Cross, a grotesque violation of international law. Gilad’s parents have fought for their son with understandable tenacity and deserve tremendous sympathy for their plight.

Yet Israel’s decision to hand over more than 1,000 terrorists in exchange for Schalit, nearly 300 of them serving life sentences, merits not jubilation but despair. From nearly every angle, it is a deplorable and morally bankrupt deal.

One should start by thinking of the families of terror victims, watching disconsolately as the vicious killers of their children are granted freedom. Among them are Arnold and Frimet Roth, the brave parents of teenager Malka Roth who was incinerated in the 2001 suicide bomb attack at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem.

That attack was engineered by Ahlam Tamimi, a Jordanian woman who was sentenced to 16 consecutive life terms for her crime. In the years since her conviction, she has shown no remorse for her actions and declared her intention to continue murdering Jews if given the chance. Yet she is one of the terrorists now relishing her liberty.

The freeing of such unrepentant murderers makes a mockery of the justice system, and is a cruel insult to the victims’ families. Their pain will only be magnified when they see these remorseless killers treated as returning heroes, just as child killer Samir Kuntar was feted on his return to Lebanon.

But it isn’t just the past victims that we should think of. If the figures from previous prisoner swaps are anything to go by, it is a near certainty that many of those released this week will be the multiple murderers of the future.

Since 1985, over 10,000 Palestinian prisoners who were serving time for hostile activities or terrorist actions have been released from Israeli jails, usually in the context of prisoner swaps.

According to the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, ‘about 50 percent of the terrorists freed returned to the path of terror, either as a perpetrator, planner or accomplice’.

Quite simply, prisoner swaps provide the clearest incentive for more terrorism, kidnapping and blackmail and therefore put the wider population in greater danger.

Indeed proof of this came shortly after the deal was announced. Within hours the Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, was crowing: “We got 1,027 out of jail and we'll recover the remaining 8,000 too”. The freed terrorists, he added, “would return to the struggle”.

Netanyahu understood the perverse logic of releasing terrorists while he was in opposition. In 2001 he wrote that prisoner swaps would “only embolden terrorists by giving them the feeling that even if they are caught their punishment will be brief”.

Worse, they encouraged “precisely the kind of terrorist blackmail” which they were ‘supposed to defuse’. What was needed was an “unrelenting refusal ever to surrender to such blackmail”. The Netanyahu of 2011 has clearly forgotten these important lessons.

More importantly, Hamas leaders, reeling from the loss of their Syrian hosts, will now feel rejuvenated and emboldened. It is little wonder that they hailed this deal as a “historic victory” for they are likely to become the key players in Palestinian politics, the power in the land rather than the neglected pariah.

They can argue that Fatah has delivered no more than a virtual state at the UN whereas terror and kidnapping have brought more tangible rewards. The West’s strategy for isolating Hamas has been severely undermined.

Supporters of the prisoner swap point to the noble Jewish tradition of pidyun shivuim (freeing captives). They say, rightly, that Israel should make extraordinary efforts to save every member of the nation’s extended family. They add that a country with a conscript army has an added responsibility for ensuring that its fighters return home, dead or alive.

But one cannot countenance any price for the freeing of captives. The lives of the unseen victims of future terror attacks matter as much as that of Corporal Schalit. They too are part of Israel’s extended family. Exchanging the freedom of one citizen for the blood of others is highly immoral for in Jewish law, every innocent life is equally precious.

So this pact with Hamas is not a cause for celebration. It is a tragic capitulation to terror which will only whet the appetite of Israel’s most intransigent enemies.


Within the last fortnight the IAEA has offered its most damning verdict to date on Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, although it will surprise few in the intelligence world. Its meticulous report found many indicators that Iran has a fully structured nuclear weapons programme. In exhaustive detail, the authors cite how Iranian scientists, with outside help, surmounted one technological hurdle after another in their race for the bomb.

One section deals with Iran’s history of deceit, and how the country remains in violation of the non-proliferation treaty. Ominously, it states that Iran may soon be preparing for a nuclear test.

With diplomacy now exhausted, there are two clear options for denying Tehran the bomb. The first is a policy of sustained economic pressure through the application of tough sanctions on Iran’s energy and financial sectors. But this route appears to have been ruled out due to determined Sino-Russian opposition.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, decried sanctions as “faulty and destructive” while the foreign ministry condemned the IAEA report’s “politicized tone”. Meanwhile China’s official Xinhua news agency said the UN watchdog still lacked “a smoking gun”, indicating that there will be no change of heart from Beijing.

It is no coincidence that China is a major importer of Iranian oil while Russia has supplied military technology to Tehran. That leaves the second option: a pre-emptive military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, undertaken by the United States and its western allies.

Military analysts in Washington and Jerusalem have long been sceptical about this option, fearing the likely consequences. They rightly point out that Iran could attack western forces in the Gulf or even block the Strait of Hormuz, causing an uncontrollable surge in oil prices.

Iran also has the potential to cause instability in Iraq through its Shia allies or carry out terrorist reprisals around the world. It would certainly call on Hezbollah to fire its missiles at Israel. If Hamas and the Syrians joined the fray, a devastating regional war would ensue.

Many also point out that a military strike would only set back the Iranian nuclear programme for a few years while fuelling their leaders’ determination to rebuild it.

But this ‘Doomsday argument’ ignores the far more serious consequences of Iran possessing the bomb. Indeed the very fears that are now deterring the military option would be realised if the west failed to act decisively against Iran.

Terrorism could become a more prevalent regional menace, given that groups like Hezbollah would now have a nuclear armed sponsor. There is even the risk that Tehran could send nuclear material to terrorists for use in a future operation.

A nuclear Iran could bully its neighbours into lowering oil production, sparking the very surge in energy prices most feared in the West. Under its nuclear umbrella, an emboldened Iran could support Shia uprisings in rival Sunni states, just as Hitler encouraged violence from the Austrian and Sudeten Nazi parties to force concessions from Germany’s neighbours.

Even worse there is the palpable threat of a nuclear arms race with Arab states, including Iran’s arch rival Saudi Arabia, keen to offset an atomic arsenal in Shia hands.

But above all, a nuclear Iran would pose an unprecedented existential threat to the Jewish state. Israelis would be living under the shadow of a revolutionary Islamist theocracy sworn to their destruction.

With every piece of blood curdling rhetoric from Tehran, the fear of mass attack would grow daily, aided by the knowledge that Iran was financing and arming the region’s most dangerous terrorist groups.

Facing such an intolerable threat to its citizens, and with the decisions of Iranian leaders so hard to predict, no Israeli government could rely on traditional deterrence.

A nuclear Iran would have appalling consequences for the world. The credible threat of force may be enough to prevent the Iranian government from continuing with its nuclear ambitions. But if not, Western leaders must not be paralysed by fear from protecting their most vital interests. A policy of appeasement will only increase the danger.

While the consequences of military action are grave, they are better than the nightmare prospect of an Iranian terror regime with atomic weapons. Western leaders must act now – and act decisively.