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Dutch MP Geert Wilders Plans Mohammed Art Expo following Failed Texas Jihad assault

Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) who spoke at the Garland Texas Muhammad Art Contest on May 3, 2015 is planning an exposition of the artwork at the Hague Parliament in Holland. Two Phoenix Arizona Muslim assailants, Elton Simpson, 30, and Hamid Nadir Soofi, 34, attacked the Curtis Cullen Education Center in Garland, Texas, equipped with body armor and  firing assault weapons.  They slighty injured a security guard and were taken down by a Garland police officer preventing a intended mass shooting just as the program sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) was ending.  More than 200 members of the audience, Wilders, sponsor Pam Geller and speaker Robert Spenser were locked inside for their safety.  Wilders and the speakers and organizers praised the quick action of security personnel at the AFDI Muhammad Art exposition.

AFP reported Wilders saying:

I am going to request Parliament to exhibit the same cartoons as those that were displayed in Garland,” Wilders told AFP on Wednesday. I want to send a message that if you use violence to suppress free speech the only effect is that we’ll do it even more, We must show we’ll not be intimidated. don’t want to provoke, but at the same time we must show that we’re standing for freedom of speech.

ISIS is claiming reponsibility for the attack by the two assailants.  Rita Katz of the Site Website in an article noted the exchange of tweets between Simpson  and  Somali American emigre  from Minnesota “Majihid Miski”, an alleged Islamic State recruiter:

Among those that Simpson kept closest contact with on Twitter was “Mujahid Miski,” believed to be Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan, a jihadist and IS-supporter from Minnesota believed to be fighting in Somalia. It is not clear if the two had known each other outside of the internet, but they shared regular conversations and appeared to have also spoken in secret discussions.

For instance, as Miski’s accounts would regularly be suspended due to constant incitements for attacks against the West, Simpson would promote his friend’s new accounts upon their creation. With one of his accounts, under the name “I’m your bro fillah,” Simpson promoted Miski’s 31st account:

miski4.jpg

Furthermore, upon Miski’s establishment of this new account, Simpson was among the first that the former Minnesota man followed.

On April 23, 2015, Miski posted a link to an article on the upcoming cartoon contest by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, and urged for a lone wolf attack by “Brothers in the US” to the style of Charlie Hebdo:

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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Iranian Nuke Deal a House of Cards?

Tony Blinken Source AP

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Source: AP

Newly designated Deputy Secretary of State, former Deputy National Security Adviser, Antony “Tony” Blinken testified yesterday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee chaired by California Republican Congressman, Edward Royce. Royce and Ranking Democratic Member, Elliot Engel of New York, were trying to determine the status of the Administration’s P5+1 negotiations on an agreement to rein in Iran’s nuclear program. Blinken’s boss, Secretary of State Kerry, with the assistance of Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz are huddling in Lausanne, Switzerland with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and nuclear program head, Ali Akbar Salehi, to reach a political agreement by a self-imposed deadline of March 31st.  Moniz and Salehi share an Alma MaterMIT, where they both earned doctorates, one in physics and the other in nuclear engineering back in the 1970’s. Moniz was an Assistant professor at MIT, while Salehi was in the nuclear engineering program.

 The latest press leak indicates that Iran might be given 40% of nuclear fuel enrichment capacity which translates to 6,000 centrifuges. That may be more than ample, Israeli PM Netanyahu, fresh from his Knesset elections victory on March 17th, contends will enable Iran to become a nuclear threshold state, although there are those who contend it may already have achieve that status.  There is debate whether any final Memorandum of Understanding will have a 10 or 25 year sunset term, and whether, Iran’s nuclear program is susceptible to so-called verifiable inspections, given evidence to the contrary compiled by the IAEA inspectors.

It was against this background that Tony Blinken provided testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He roused the skepticism of the house panel with comments that the deal would bar Iran from achieving a nuclear capability in perpetuity. An AFP report on yesterday’s hearing noted this exchange:

The Obama administration insisted before skeptical lawmakers Thursday that any deal with Iran would ensure for “perpetuity” that it could not develop nuclear weapons.

A comprehensive accord would also see “phased, proportionate” relief from tough sanctions that have severely constrained Iran’s economy, but such relief could be swiftly reversed should the Islamic republic violate any final deal, said Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Several members of Congress and other critics have warned that the ongoing negotiations between world powers and Tehran would lead to a deal that would sunset after 10 years.

Once the deal ends, critics fear the Islamic republic could once again freely crank up its nuclear program and develop a bomb.

“That is simply not true,” Blinken told a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“To the contrary, Iran would be prohibited from developing a nuclear weapon in perpetuity — and we would have a much greater ability to detect any effort by Iran to do so.”

He said that while some constraints would be lifted after a “significant period,” others would last “indefinitely, including a stringent and intrusive monitoring and inspections regime” by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency.

And should Iran violate the agreement and begin a rush to a bomb, a process described as “breakout,” Blinken stressed that restrictions on centrifuges and uranium mills would prevent Iran from completing a nuclear bomb for at least a year.

“That would provide us more than enough time to detect and act on any Iranian transgression,” he said.

Blinken said Iran would be indefinitely barred under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty from developing or acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Democrats and Republicans alike scoffed at the suggestion that such NPT restrictions would hold back Iran; with committee Chairman Ed Royce warning that Iranians “have been violating those commitments for years.”

Lawmakers also pointed to the need to include restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program in any nuclear deal, as reinforcement against the country using such a delivery system for an atomic bomb.

“The critical question of the possible military dimension of Iran’s program… would have to be part of any agreement,” Blinken acknowledged.

Blinken’s colleague at State, Deputy Undersecretary Wendy Sherman, who has been actively engaged in the P5+1 negotiations, has some relevant experience in dismissing Blinken’s assertion that the deal under consideration would bar Iranian’ nuclear breakout. Ms. Sherman was part of the Clinton Administration team that put together the executive agreement in 1994 with North Korea that was also supposed to stop the DPRK’s nuclear program by substituting light water reactors. That agreement was subject to a Congressional hearing.  By 2006, North Korea successfully evaded IAEA inspections, produced a nuclear fuel stockpile and tested a device resulting in collapse of the agreement. The Bush Administration stopped fuel oil deliveries to the DPRK.

Last time I looked at Blinker’s bio, he had a Columbia Law School degree, not in physics, like Energy Secretary Moniz or Iran negotiator, Salehi, both MIT alumni.

Washington Post columnist, Al Kamen, drew attention to Blinker’s obvious qualification enabling to make his perpetuity comment about a deal to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Blinken was apparently a consultant to the HBO series, “House of Cards”.   Kamen revealed:

Sometimes it’s good not to fast-forward through the credits roll. You never know what you’ll find.

So the other evening, when the credits came up for episode nine of this season’s “House of Cards,” this popped up: “Consultant: TONY BLINKEN.”

Whoa! As in the deputy secretary of state and former White House deputy national security adviser? That’s some pretty heavy-duty consulting power. Is Blinken moonlighting for Kevin Spacey?

Well, not exactly.

Blinken, a modest sort, said in an e-mail that “‘consultant’ vastly overstated” his role, which amounted to a “few phone calls” perhaps nine months to a year ago. That would have been when he was working in the White House. The calls came from head series writer Beau Willimon and some other writers for the show who wanted to “test the veracity or not of some foreign policy story lines.”

“At this point, I don’t remember the details or the issues” involved, Blinken said. And, no, he wasn’t paid for the advice. Probably a good thing, because the episode — one of the “Putin segments” — for which he got the credit line involves, even for the “House of Cards,” a wildly implausible shootout in the Jordan River Valley. (We’re not going to say more.)

And, yes, Blinken and wife Evan Ryan, the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, are binge-watchers.

Watch this C-Span video clip of Deputy Secretary of State Blinken being questioned at the March 19, 2015 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Iran nuclear negotiations:

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The photo shopped featured image is courtesy of the House of Cards TV series.

Lars Vilks Free Speech Event Turns Deadly in Copenhagen

Vilks Self Portrait

Lars Vilks self-Portrait.

Today’s deadly assault by a masked gunman who sprayed more than 200 rounds of automatic fire into a Café in Northern Copenhagen. The exchange of gunfire by  the gunmen with Danish security police  took the life of one 40-year old man at the Free Speech, Blasphemy and Islam  event  where both Swedish Artist Lars Vilks the honoree and the French Ambassador were present. They were unhurt in the attack. Three security police were injured in the shootout at the Krudttønden Café.

Listen to this BBC recording of a speaker at the Krudttønden Café when gunfire sent everyone to the floor. According to a later reports from AFP, Reuters and BBC:

A  second, perhaps related, incident, close to Copenhagen’s main synagogue in the city center, saw a 55-year old  Jewish man shot in the head, who subsequently died of  wounds,  and two policemen were  injured, police said in a statement early Sunday.  The BBC reported  “early on Sunday, police said they had shot dead a man  who opened fire on them near a railway station in the neighborhood of Noerrebro where they had been keeping an address under observation.”

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt described the assault as “a terrorist attack”, while the United States branded it “deplorable”.

French ambassador to Denmark Francois Zimeray, who had been present at the debate but was not hurt, told AFP the shooting was an attempt to replicate the January 7 attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris which killed 12 people.

“They shot from the outside (and) had the same intention as Charlie Hebdo, only they didn’t manage to get in,” he said by telephone from the venue.

We interviewed  Vilks when he appeared at Rabbi Jonathan Hausman’s Massachusetts synagogue in 2010 during a tour of the US under the auspices of the International Free Press society.  He discussed several attacks on him, including   a firebombing attack by jihadis at his home in Sweden. This followed the publication in 2007 of his Mohammed as a roundabout dog sketches and assault against him at an Uppsala University lecture.   We noted his raison d’être for the Mohammed cartoon:

Vilks created the Mohammed sketch for an exhibition in Sweden entitled “Dog in the Roundabout.” He explained that Sweden’s road/highway system is dotted with roundabouts (rotaries). Often, parks are created in such rotaries or there is simply open area in which people take their dogs for walks. In 2006, there was a national competition to create dogs in roundabouts. With his artist’s eye, Vilks drew dogs in the roundabout. He then began to play with different forms of dogs…solid form, blurry form, different sizes, dogs in different settings, interchanging the body of a dog with the head of a man, Mohammed. Vilks has stated that this series of drawings stirred the ire of the Muslim world. The catalyst for his sketches was the growing violence and changes in Swedish cities caused by Muslim immigrants who displayed unbridled anti-Semitism and anti-Western animus.

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Vilks cartoon Mohammed as roundabout dog.

See a separate interview with Vilks in our collection, The West Speaks. Today’s fatal attack at the Krudttønden Café unfortunately reminds us that blasphemy under Sharia can result in death.

Update from Nidra Poller in Paris:

Now the Danish police are saying there was just one gunman. They have published CCTV photos of him. They describe him as “North African origin.” The event was a tribute to Charlie Hebdo. Debate  is  lively in France and we’re not hearing the “nothing to do with Islam” melody. Europeans are aware that all our liberties are under attack. It’s not just a question of blasphemy. That’s just the beginning. 

The Local in Denmark has updates:

Update, 6.18pm: 

The civilian killed in Saturday’s shooting attack was a 40-year-old Danish citizen, police have said. Police added that they have founded the suspected getaway vehicle but two suspects are still at large.

Update, 6.08 p.m.: Reports of up to 200 shots fired:

The French Ambassdor to Denmark told AFP from inside the venue that shots rang out in the midst of a debate on Islam and free speech in Copenhagen.

“They fired on us from the outside. It was the same intention as [the January 7 attack on] Charlie Hebdo except they didn’t manage to get in,” Francois Zimeray said by telephone.

Swedish artist Lars Vilks, the author of controversial Prophet Mohammed cartoons published in 2007 that sparked worldwide protests was also at the debate.

Three police officers were reported wounded outside the building, Danish media reported, quoting eyewitnesses.

Zimeray said earlier on Twitter that he was not harmed.

“Intuitively I would say there were at least 50 gunshots, and the police here are saying 200,” he told AFP.

“Bullets went through the doors and everyone threw themselves to the floor. We managed to flee the room, and now we’re staying inside because it’s still dangerous. The attackers haven’t been caught and they could very well still be in the neighborhood.”

A Femen activist, Inna Shevshenko, said on Twitter that there were several dozen people in the room.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius condemned the attack, saying in a statement that France “remains by the side of the Danish authorities and people in the fight against terrorism.”

Vilks has been under police protection since his 2007 cartoons were published.

The French president’s office said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was headed to the scene.

Update, 5.57 p.m.:

Police have confirmed that one civilian has died and three police officers are wounded. Police continue to hunting for two suspected gunmen in a dark Volkswagen Polo. The suspects were said to be wearing all black and speaking Danish.

Vilks himself was unhurt in the attack.

Police say they believe Vilks, known for his depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, was the target of the attack. He was attending a debate on the theme of ‘Art, blasphemy and freedom of speech’ at the Krudttønden cultural centre in the Østerbro area of the Danish capital. The attack took place after a speech by the French Ambassador to Denmark.

Delegate Dennis Meyhoff Brink, a satire researcher, told Jyllands Posten that he heard 30 shots over a two minute period. Danish security police then ordered everyone to remain inside. According to reports, the focus of the attack was on the entrance to the building, and the gunman did not enter the main hall.

“[Security police] came running through the room brandishing guns, and they took Lars Vilks out a back door.”

According to Brink, the shots were fired just as the French Ambassador, François Zimeray, had finished speaking. Zimeray immediately took to Twitter to confirm that he was still alive:

Copenhagen police confirmed to the Berlingske newspaper that three officers were wounded in the shooting and that two suspected gunmen were at large. The suspects wore black and spoke Danish.

The meeting was held under tight security, with delegates subject to searches as they entered the building.

The newspaper Ekstra Bladet writes that the police are treating the attack as an act of terrorism.

Helle Merete Blix, one of the organizers of the meeting, told Danish channel TV2 News that the meeting continued following the drama:

“We couldn’t get away, so the debate meeting carried on,” she said.

More soon

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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Danish Police Searching for Gunman after Attack on Free Speech event at Krudttønden Café 2-14-15. Source Martin Vesty/Scanpix.

Israel is not ‘sightless’ in Gaza

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Destroyed home of Mohammed Deif in Gaza city, August 20, 2014. Source: AFP

Yesterday in Jerusalem, with visiting American Congressman Darrell  Issa (R-CA) at his side, Israeli PM Netanyahu heaped considerable praise on Shin Bet-Israel’s General Security Service – for the targeted  killings of senior Hamas commanders in Rafah. The International Business Times(IBT) quoted Netanyahu saying:

The “hard work and professionalism” of Shin Bet had enabled the Israeli military to “carry out this operation against the Hamas leaders who plotted fatal attacks against Israelis,” Netanyahu reportedly said, referring to pre-dawn air strikes in Rafah that killed the three Hamas commanders.

“In the name of every Israeli citizen, I thank the Shin Bet, the heads of the intelligence and operational units, and the chief of the organization, Yoram Cohen,” he said, according to Ha’aretz. Meanwhile, the Israeli military said that it had killed six militants of the Islamic Jihad — a Palestinian Islamist organization — as they were “about to launch rockets into Israel.”

Possibly in retaliation, today, Hamas,  publicly executed 18 ‘collaborators’. These public executions come in the midst of a rising wave of ‘collaborator’ executions in the terrorist stronghold of Gaza.  Israel National News  reported a series of such reprisals in an article, “Hamas Goes on an ‘Israel Collaborator’ Killing Spree”:

Majd, a website close to Hamas, on Thursday reported that Hamas’s military wing,the Al-Qassam Brigades, executed three Gaza residents and arrested seven others for ‘collaborating’ with Israel during Operation Protective Edge.

No date was given for the executions or arrests, but the Hamas security official quoted in the report said the three were killed after “revolutionary procedures” were completed against them.

The same website reported on August 6 that “a number” of Arab collaborators had been killed, again without giving a date.

In the last week of July, Palestinian sources reported that over 30 Gazans were executed by Hamas, most of them in the Shejaiya neighborhood. In that case too, Hamas claimed that they were collaborators with Israel.

The Times of Israel reported a revelation by a Lebanese publication that a phone call between Hamas leader Khalid Mashal in Qatar and  Mohammed Deif, the elusive  head of the Hamas military wing, may have  provided Israel with intelligence that sealed the fate of both he and his family.  According to the TOI  Mashal may have broken protocol to discuss a possible cease fire with Israel. The Deif residence in Gaza was hit with several bunker buster bombs which  cratered  the structure. That resulted  in a massive funeral purportedly for Deif’s wife and children. Hamas spokesman persist in conveying the impression that Deif escaped the fatal attack, and yet have not provided any proof of life.  That attack signifies, as one source told me, that the IAF is flying missions with small bunker buster bombs, in just such a  instance to make  an instantaneous attack.

MohammedDeif

Mohammed Deif, Hamas military leader.

A report by the Shaham Palestinian news service published a picture of Deif along with this statement:

“The bodies arrived at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, after the occupation planes attacked the al-Dalo home, in the Rimal neighborhood in the north, in Gaza City, last night,” the report said. “The document we obtained was confiscated by an armed squad of the Al-Qassam brigade from Shifa’s archive, and also changed the check-in information in the hospital to erase Deif’s name from the list.”

“We at Saham News are forced to tell the Palestinian nation, with great sadness, of the death of Deif,” it concluded. “We belong to Allah, and to him we return.”

Shin Bet is also to be credited for its role in uncovering  the Hamas  power play against Fatah in the West Bank with funds  and arms caches. Many observers believe this may have been a key part of the Rosh Ha Shanah attack plan by Hamas that included infiltration of suicide commandos through  the terror tunnels dug across the frontier between Gaza and Israel. The joint IDF-Shin Bet Operation Brother’s Keeper that detained hundreds of Hamas operatives in the search  for three murdered Jewish Yeshiva students may have provided the intelligence resulting in disclosures of the thwarted plot. Senior Hamas representative ensconced in Turkey, Salah al-Aruri,  announced his role in orchestrating the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish yeshiva students. The Jerusalem Post reported:

SalahalAruri

Hamas Military leader in Turkey, Salah al-Aruri.

A senior Hamas official admitted for the first time on Wednesday that the organization’s armed wing, the Kassam Brigades, was behind the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teens Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah in the West Bank in June, Channel 2 reported.

The Hamas official, Salah al-Aruri made the comments during a conference of Islamic clerics in Turkey. He praised the “heroic action of the Kassam Brigades who kidnapped three settlers in Hebron.”

Israeli lawyer, Nitsana Darshan Leitner of Shurat ha Din (Israel Law Center) asked US Attorney  General Eric Holder to invoke the extradition treaties between the US and Turkey to bring to justice al-Aruri for the murder of Israeli-American, Fraenkel.  Meanwhile, PA President Abbas is reported to have had heated conversations in Doha, Qatar with Mashal triggered by Hamas’ plans to overthrow Fatah . Further, there are indications that pressure  is building  on the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to eject Mashal from his luxurious palace in Doha.  Qatar has been a major funder of Hamas, supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and  ISIS, along with Erdogan’s Turkey. If that eventuated Mashal might then be subject to apprehension and possible trial in Egypt. Lest we forget, PM Netanyahu was caught in an embarrassing position in 1998, when an attempted assassination of Mashal by Mossad agents was disclosed by the late King Hussein of Jordan.  Mashal also could have been taken out, while a resident in Damascus, before his departure for Qatar at the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. Witness the Mossad assassination in February 2008 of Hezbollah terrorist mastermind, Imad Mughniyeh.

Whether it is human intelligence through cultivation of assets, or ELINT ears and eyes in the skies over Gaza, these targeted assassination episodes by the IDF with assistance from Shin bet have succeeded in decimating  the military leadership of Hamas. These actions clearly indicate that unlike the Biblical Shimshon, Samson the Nazerite, Israel is not ‘sightless’ in Gaza.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

European Parliamentary Elections: Eurosceptic Parties Win — but can they organize an Alliance?

Yesterday afternoon, I spoke with my Geneva based European observer following the close of European Parliamentary Elections in 28 member countries. He indicated that both the UK Independent Party (UKIP) led by Nigel Farage and Marine le Pen ‘s National Front each were poised to pick up 24 seats in their country’s  MEP delegations. Eurosceptic parties  like Denmark’s  anti- immigrant People’s Party led with  26.7 percent  doubling its delegate slate,  while  Greece’s left progressive Syrizia  came out on top  with 26.5 percent. Geert Wilders’ Freedom party tied for second in The Netherland despite poor exit polls on Thursday evening.  Elsewhere, the right wing Austrian People’s Party appeared  to be leading with 20 percent of the vote up from 7 percent in 2009. In Italy, the Democrat Party led by PM Matteo Renzi trounced the Five Star Movement copping fully 40 percent of the vote. Italy will take over the revolving Presidency  next month.

However, there was evidence that some anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi parties won delegates in their European parliamentary slates. Witness Hungary’s Jobbik Party which  came in second with 14.7 percent, while Greece’s Golden Dawn was third with 9.7 percent.

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UKIP leader Nigel Farage interviewed after MEP victory. Source: AFP

For results overall and by EU Member countries, consult the Financial Times European Parliament election results on –line, at this interactive graphic, here.

The Financial Times (FT) reported on the “earthquake” that Farage predicted for the UKIP. The Euro Parliamentary Elections in the UK coincided with local council elections, as well. The UKIP at 27.5 percent of the Euro Parliament vote tally has defeated the Liberal Democrats, unnerved Nick Clegg, junior partner in the ruling Westminster parliament coalition. The UKIP significant electoral victory   upset the Labor Party led by  Ed Milleband while causing Conservative PM David Cameron to suggest to the Tories, “that it was not business as  usual”. These UK Euro Parliament results may portend a scramble for the 2015 Westminster Parliamentary elections. The FT account noted:

Nick Clegg’s grey face told the story of Britain’s European elections. The leader of the pro-European Liberal Democrats was subdued, his eyes glassy, as he spoke of his party’s “heartbreaking” electoral annihilation.

Meanwhile across town at a central London hotel, Nigel Farage was mobbed by reporters as he celebrated the UK Independence party’s “historic” breakthrough, topping the national poll with 27.5 per cent of the vote and 24 seats.

[…]

It was also the first time the Conservatives had come third in such a vote, trailing in with only 24 per cent of the vote. For Labor, second with 25.5 per cent, it was an unimpressive performance, raising doubts about whether Mr. Miliband has the momentum to take the party to victory in next year’s general election.

The FT quipped:

There is no obvious policy fix: any attempt to “out-Ukip Ukip” on immigration or Europe is unlikely to succeed. Meanwhile none of the three main parties has a leader capable of matching Mr. Farage’s “man in the pub” style.

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Ms. Marine Le Pen of the French National Front interviewed in the Elsyee Lounge. Source: AFP

Among UK voters who may have swung to the UKIP in droves were reported to be Britain’s Jews.  They may have been motivated by Farage’s disavowal of the troubling anti-Semitic positions of some of the Eurosceptic parties. The exception is the Dutch Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders, who is pro-Israel, while opposing mass immigration and critical of Islam.

Ms. Le Pen has also achieved a stunning upset victory coming in first in France. In her post election remarks, she hinted this could be a prelude to the 2017 Presidential elections.  Given the low poll standing of Socialist Premier Hollande amid the floundering French economic problems unless turned around, this could be a possibility. However, the fallout from  the Euro parliament elections also may upset the possible future plans of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and leader of the UMP.

The FT account of her victory noted:

Ms Le Pen now has her sights firmly fixed on the battle to win the nearby Elysée Palace in the 2017 presidential election. “This is just the first step,” she said as she arrived to join revelers.

Few commentators are yet ready to predict that Ms Le Pen, with her fiercely anti-EU and anti-immigrant policies, will make it. But the scale of the FN’s triumph has planted genuine fear in both President François Hollande’s ruling Socialist party and the centre-right UMP.

The 25 per cent score achieved by the FN on Sunday had been predicted by some polls, but the four point gap over the UMP and the slump in the Socialist tally to less than 14 per cent prompted alarm.

The FN broke out of its strongholds in the south and post-industrial north. It came top in 71 electoral departments, compared with 28 for the UMP and just two for the socialists.

A socialist parliamentarian who saw Mr Hollande on Monday reported him saying: “I expected it to some extent, but it was still a big shock.”

In the wake of Marine Le Pen’s stunning victory in France, French President Hollande went on television today. The FT in an article about changes in leadership for the EU reporting him saying:

He would use an EU summit on Tuesday to call for a marked shift from austerity to growth to combat the populist surge. He said the EU had become “incomprehensible. “This cannot go on,” he said, adding it must be reformed to “be efficient where it needs to be and to withdraw from where it is not needed”.

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Geert Wilders of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) at the Polls. Source EFP

When we posted on Thursday exit poll results in the Netherlands indicated the Freedom Party (PVV) led by Geert Wilders might have experienced a set setback in the 23 seats held by Dutch parties in the Strasbourg parliament, effectively losing two seats.

On the heels of a conversation with a colleague in Geneva, came  a news brief from the Chicago Tribune  indicating that the PVV was tied with  Democrats 66 with four seats each, bested by the Christian Democrat Appeal  with five. Wilders’ comment in the Chicago Tribune article was “Four Seats, that’s great.  Now we make the first gains for a new alliance of Eurosceptic and anti-immigration parties in the European Parliament”

The FT in its analysis of the Euro Parliament elections was not so sure that the Eurosceptic alliance can be achieved. It commented:

The surge of anti-establishment parties has also led to a scramble to rebuild anti-EU blocks in the parliament, with the two biggest populist groups – France’s National Front and Britain’s UK Independence party, which both secured 24 seats, making them the fourth largest in the assembly – vying for allies.

Marine Le Pen, Front National leader, may struggle to find the six parties needed to form a new anti-EU group in parliament.  Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader who already heads a Eurosceptic group, has seen several of his allies – including the Danish People’s party and the True Finns – wooed by Mr. Cameron’s Tories. Since the Tories left the EPP, they have led the small European Conservatives and Reformists group.

Perhaps the wisest comment on the European Parliamentary election results could be that ancient Chinese curse: “may you live in interesting times”.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Terrorist Attack on Brussels Jewish Museum Triggered by “Climate of Hate”

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Policemen close the access of the scene of a shooting near the Jewish Museum in Brussels, on May 24, 2014. Three people were killed and one badly injured in a shooting Saturday near the Jewish Museum in Brussels. (Photo credit: AFP/ Belga Photo/NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

Reports have just come in  about a possible terrorist attack on The Jewish Museum in Brussels by a perpetrator and accomplice, one of whom  entered the lobby and shot dead two men and a woman seriously injuring a fourth person.. The attack took place in mid afternoon, GMT, not far from the EU headquarters in Belgium’s Capital city.  The Jewish Museum, which is not operated by the country’s Jewish community, was open on Saturday and is located in the antique district popular with visitors.

The recent ADL Global 100 Index of Antisemitism indicated that an estimated 27% of Belgians evinced some form of Antisemitism. Belgium has a large emigre Muslim community. A 2008  study  estimated that  6% of Belgian’s population, 628,751 were Muslim.  A November 2012 Gatestone Institute article by Soeren Kern, “Belgium Will Become an Islamic State” drew attention to Muslim dominance in Brussels, noting:

Speaking to a reporter from Radio Télévision Belge Francophone (RTBF), the public broadcasting service of the French-speaking part of Belgium, Ahrouch said: “The agenda is still the same, but our approach is different now. I think we have to sensitize people, make them understand the advantages to having Islamic people and Islamic laws. And then it will be completely natural to have Islamic laws and we will become an Islamic state.”

The reporter interjected: “An Islamic State in Belgium?” Ahrouch replied: “In Belgium, of course! I am for the Sharia. Islamic law, I am for it. It is a long-term struggle that will take decades or a century, but the movement has been launched.”

The rise of the Islam Party comes amid a burgeoning Muslim population in the Belgian capital. Muslims now make up one-quarter of the population of Brussels, according to a book recently published by the Catholic University of Leuven, the top Dutch-language university in Belgium.

In real terms, the number of Muslims in Brussels — where half of the number of Muslims in Belgium currently live — has reached 300,000, which means that the self-styled “Capital of Europe” is one of the most Islamic city in Europe.

Here are excerpts from the Times of Israel report, ‘Climate of hate’ blamed for attack on Brussels Jewish museum that kills 3″:

The murder of three people at the Brussels Jewish Museum Saturday afternoon was a result of “a climate of hate,” said Joel Rubinfeld, the head of the Belgian League against anti-Semitism.

Rubinfeld told AFP it clearly “is a terrorist act” as a man had been seen driving up and entering the museum before opening fire inside and running off.

One person remained in critical condition as a result of the shooting. Twelve people were being treated for shock, according to local sources.

“Two women and one man are dead, a third person is in hospital,” Interior Minister Joelle Milquet said at the scene. “We don’t yet know if they were tourists or staff, they haven’t been identified.”

Asked whether she believed it was an anti-Semitic attack, she said it was too early to say as a police and judicial inquiry was under way but that given the target “there are strong grounds for presuming so”.

One man was reported in custody after the attack.

Milquet said the government had moved to increase protection at Jewish buildings as well as the Israeli embassy.

The country’s foreign minister, Didier Reynders, tweeted Saturday that he was “shocked by the murders committed at the Jewish museum.”

“I am thinking of the victims I saw there and their families,” he said.

Belgium-Shooting_Horo-e1400952830851-305x172

Forensic experts examine the site of a shooting at the Jewish museum in Brussels, Saturday, May 24, 2014. (Photo credit: AP/Yves Logghe)

The La Libre newspaper said on its website that an Audi had driven up and parked outside the museum, and that both a passenger and the driver had gotten out.

It said the driver placed two bags on the ground and then opened fire on bystanders before driving off.

“A person wearing a backpack was seen opening fire before fleeing,” Radio Télévision Belge Francophone (RTBF) reported [in French].

Police and emergency services were at the site, which was blocked off in the Belgian capital.

The Jewish Museum of Belgium, which was not answering calls, is located in the heart of the Sablon district which is home to the city’s top antique dealers. The area is a popular weekend haunt for shoppers.

The museum is not run by the Jewish community, and is therefore open on Saturdays. There were visitors at the museum at the time of the shooting.

The head of Belgium’s Jewish Consistory told La Libre that “is is probably a terrorist act. For us it is an extremely serious act.”

Read more: ‘Climate of hate’ blamed for attack on Brussels Jewish museum that kills 3 | The Times of Israel

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RELATED STORY: Tel Aviv Couple Among Four Dead in Attack on Brussels Jewish Museum

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Are you trapped by Obamacare? So are 2.3 million other Americans!

Americans for Prosperity has a new video titled “Trapped by Obamacare.” AFP notes, “First Obama told the Lie of the Year. Now CBO reports, Obamacare will shrink the workforce by the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time jobs.”

Learn more at http://www.lieoftheyear.org/

[youtube]http://youtu.be/XgULqwIBxXsH[/youtube]

Senate Democrats Back off New Iran Sanctions Legislation

As if on cue, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani trumpets how the Islamic Regime won big time with the announced Joint Plan of Action (JPA) implementation last Sunday in Geneva.  As The Guardian noted in a report, “Iran nuclear deal means ‘surrender’ for Western Powers, says Rouhani”:

Speaking on Tuesday in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, Rouhani said the “Geneva deal means the surrender of big powers before the great nation of Iran”.

Perhaps one of those victories is the ability of the Islamic regime to pursue what we would call the “nth” development of new, more efficient centrifuges to enrich uranium. Enrichment for only one purpose, to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.  The Obama White House  confirmed that Iran has been allowed to pursue ‘centrifuge research’.     The Washington Free Beacon noted this White House news conference call exchange in an article,” Iran permitted to continue advanced nuclear research”:

Asked by a reporter on a conference call if the deal stops “Iran from designing new types of centrifuges,” a senior administration official admitted that the deal does not prohibit this activity.

[…]

“So what’s the practical effect of this R&D [research and development] clarification that you labored over so hard? What does it preclude them from doing?” the reporter asked.

It—I mean, their commitment is to continue their current enrichment R&D practices, and those are the practices that are laid out in the November [IAEA} Director General’s report,” said one of two senior administration officials on the press briefing. “This—that’s been documented, and that’s what they were—that’s what they will continue to do.”

As we had reported  in an Iconoclast post on possible veto-proof  bipartisan Iran sanctions  legislation in the US Senate (S1881) that  the centrifuge research issue had allegedly hit a snag.

Now in the wake of Rouhani’s speech yesterday in Iran comes word that the White House is soft peddling the Iranian President’s trumpeting of this alleged “victory”.    An AFP article, “White House plays down Rouhani crowing on Nuclear Deal” notes these comments by White House spokesperson Jay Carney at yesterday’s press conference:

It is not surprising to us and nor should it be surprising to you that the Iranians are describing the agreement in a certain way towards their domestic audience. It does not matter what they say, it matters what they do.

Problem is it could  thwart the Obama Administration’s campaign to stifle new bi-partisan sanctions legislation , the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act (NWFIA), S1881.

However, under White House threat to veto  NWFIA, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid ,according to a report from  The Weekly Standard, has blocked bringing the measure up for a floor vote.  Note these comments from  Reid, Democrat  Senators and Minority Leader McConnell in The Hill report,  “Dems back away from Iran sanctions legislation”:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday he wanted to “wait and see how this plays out” before moving forward with a vote on the sanctions. Reid declined to say when he might bring the bill, which has 59 co-sponsors, including 16 Democrats, to a vote.

The majority leader noted 10 of his committee chairmen are opposed to the bill.

“We believe we ought to have that vote,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday. “We’re going to continue to press the majority leader to allow a vote on an issue that obviously enjoys the support of a very large bipartisan majority here in the Senate.”

“I think the Iran sanctions bill is meant to strengthen the president, not in any way impede the ongoing negotiations, which should and hopefully will be successful,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a Menendez-Kirk co-sponsor, told reporters Tuesday. “So as long as there’s progress, and as long as the progress is meaningful and visible, there may not need to be a vote.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), another co-sponsor, said both the administration and Congress wanted to reach a diplomatic solution through negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, if that was possible.

“As far as trying to work out with the administration a strategy so we have more harmony, let’s talk about it,” Cardin said. “So I think that’s what’s going on right now.”

Prior to the November 24th announcement in Geneva of the P5+1 interim agreement with Iran,  Reid had backed new sanctions legislation according to  a report in the Los Angeles Times on November 21, 2013.

Yesterday, an Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) conference call on Iran’s intentions over its nuclear program   featured former Israeli Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger and Dr. Michael Ledeen of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.  Dr. Ledeen is an impassioned advocate for both sanctions and support for regime change via what he argues could be a significant Iranian opposition.  Amb. Ettinger suggested that perhaps something more is required, when he commented:

Only one option to avoid facing an Iran which could become an uncontrollable strategic apocalyptic threat. That option is surgical, devastating, disproportional military preemption against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

French Court Bans Performances of Anti-Semitic Comic Dieudonné

Pictured: French Anti-Semitic Comic Dieudonne’ and French Soccer star Nicolas Anelka in Nazi-like quenelle salute

French Court of the State re imposed a ban on the performance of controversial comic Dieudonne’ within minutes of an administrative tribunal decision in Nantes lifting it.   Dieudonné was in the midst of a tour of several major French cities, despite having over 9 convictions with penalties of $80,000 for violating French hate laws.  These violations are regarding his comments about the Holocaust and Jewish personalities that some, including his former Jewish comic sidekick, consider Anti-Semitic.  His performance in Nantes had been banned by a local French government official in furtherance public order issued by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, Tuesday.  Valls said  today:

“This is a political battle and not just a legal one. We must not let these intolerable statements go unanswered.” The Socialist politician said Dieudonné’s anti-Semitic and racist outbursts were “not an opinion, but a felony” and underlined that “the action I have undertaken has the advantage of mobilizing everyone, including the offices of the State.”

On Tuesday French President Hollande said:

I am calling on all representatives of the state, particularly its prefects, to be on alert and inflexible. No one should be able to use this show for provocation and to promote openly anti-Semitic ideas.

A World Jewish Congress (WJC) report noted:

Earlier this week,  Interior Minister Valls said racial and anti-Semitic remarks in Dieudonné’s show were legal infractions and “no longer belong to the artistic and creative dimension”. In a three-page circular letter sent on Monday to prefects and mayors across France, Valls said that the show contained “disgraceful and anti-Semitic words toward Jewish personalities or the Jewish community” and “virulent and shocking attacks on the memory of victims of the Holocaust.”

[…]

World Jewish Congress Vice-President Roger Cukierman, the head of the French Jewish umbrella body CRIF, told ‘France Info’ radio on Tuesday morning that he was satisfied that the French government had now acted. He called on French citizens to speak out against Dieudonné’s anti-Semitism. “No, France is not an anti-Semitic country, but therefore, one has to put stop to [Dieudonné’s] actions and prosecute him wherever possible.” Cukierman is among eight persons and institutions against who Dieudonné has threatened a defamation suit.

Even a right wing Political Leader, Marnie Le Pen of the National Front, expressed “shock’ at Dieudonné’s behavior in remarks to Le Figaro, although hedging that perhaps the French government may have gone too far with this ban.

Much of the controversy surrounding Dieudonne arises from his use of an alleged pro-Nazi gesture, the quenelle.  The WJC report noted:

The ‘quenelle’ gesture – holding one hand to the chest or shoulder, with the other extended rigidly downward, [is] like a lowered Nazi salute. Dieudonné’s companion Noémie Montagne has patented the gesture, as well as the use of its name for beverages, a television network and a public relations company.

The quenelle gesture was used by Nicolas Anelka, French Soccer star of the West Bromwich Albion English Premier League Soccer, team when scoring goals in a West Ham match.  Anelka Tweeted: “This gesture was a special dedication to my friend Dieudonné.”That gave rise to a Tweet from French Sports Minister, Valerie Fourneyron, who called it “Provocative”.   A WJC report cited European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor  urging  football’s governing bodies to punish Anelka as if he “had made the infamous outstretched arm salute” of the Nazis.

Dieudonné’s  loyal followers believe today’s legal battles, denied him  free speech.  In the US it could e considered protected speech under the First Amendment upheld under several Supreme Court decisions, beginning with the Brandenburg v. Ohio decision in 1969.

Prior to the reinstatement  today of the ban by the French Court of State, Dieudonné’s counsel Jacques Verdiersaid  was  cited by AFP  hastily saying:

 The judge’s ruling amounted to a “total victory”. A statement from the court said it did not regard the show as having “an attack on human dignity as its main object”.

Over 5,600 held tickets to the performance at the Zenith Theater in Nantes. Mayors in Bordeaux, Marseilles and Tours have banned Dieudonne’s performances in response to the order from French President Hollande and Interior Minister Valls.

Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala is the son of a French mother and Cameroonian father. He has made a career engaging in anti-Semitic references about the Holocaust, international Jewish control and inventing a Nazi-like gesture, the quenelle, mimicked by his followers. He has courted both far-right and far-left groups, as well as African and Muslim émigré communities in France.  Dieudonné had a Jewish partner, Eli Semour,  on TV and live performances. Dieudonné would appear in a KKK white sheet costume, while Semour would be decked out in a Nazi SS uniform. That was years ago. Now Semour is appalled at the depths of his former partner’s anti-Semitic routines.

One example of Dieudonne’s attacks on Jewish personalities was the case of French radio personality Patrick Cohen. The Wall Street Journal in its coverage of the most recent Dieudonné contretemps reported:

The latest controversy began last month, when state television channel France 2 broadcast footage captured by a hidden camera and showing Dieudonné commenting about French-Jewish radio anchor Patrick Cohen during a private performance.

“Me, you see, when I hear Patrick Cohen speak, I think to myself: Gas chambers…too bad,” the comedian was shown saying on stage. Dieudonné’s lawyers don’t dispute the video’s veracity.

Dieudonné’s remarks followed a previous remark by Mr. Cohen on a TV show that he was against hosting a number of “sick brains” in his morning radio shows, listing Dieudonné among others.

Later in December, Paris prosecutors said they had launched a preliminary probe against Dieudonné. In a TV interview, Mr. Cohen said he wouldn’t comment on the legal process. Dieudonné says the latest episode shows that France’s mainstream media has double standards over alleged racism.

“When it’s about blacks, people laugh, nobody bothers even though the pain and the misery are at least as deep,” Dieudonné said in a video posted on his YouTube channel.

Coinciding with this breaking news on Dieudonné and rising French Antisemitism, we interviewed yesterday Michel Gurfinkiel.  He is French journalist, author, founder and President of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, a conservative  think-thank in France. He is a Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum.    Among issues covered in the conversation were French Jewry, rising anti-Semitism, French government initiatives and multi-cultural and Muslim émigré problems including the current controversy over Dieudonné.

At one point in our conversation we discussed a separate initiative by the Hollande government that was controversial. This was a draft posted on the government’s website directed at cultivating the anti-racist, African and Muslim émigré voting constituencies. The draft fostered recognition of multi-cultural origins of these groups effectively denying integration with French history, language and cultural values.  The ruckus the proposal caused led to the withdrawal of the draft.  Gurfinkiel characterized it as one more step towards national suicide. Meanwhile, he noted that young French Jews are increasingly committed towards aliyah to Israel, while others are moving into predominately safer Christian areas in France.  As Gurfinkiel put it, French Jewry, transformed by Holocaust survivors and émigrés expelled from former French Muslim possessions and other Islamic countries, feel threatened.  The Dieudonné episode is another expression of that threat.

Look for more insights from Gurfinkiel in our interview with him in the February 2014 edition of the NER.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.