Daily Archives: October 4, 2008

Army combat unit ready to deploy domestically within the U.S.

Soldiers preparing for a mission coordinated by Joint Task Force North, the U.S. Northern Command unit.

Related

Sen. Warner Supports Domestic Use of Military

Thousands of Troops Are Deployed on U.S. Streets Ready to Carry Out “Crowd Control”
Bloggers are criticizing the new force, saying that because it has been training in law enforcement tactics it could be be used for domestic law enforcement.

The unit has been training with equipment generally used in law enforcement, including beanbag bullets, Tasers, spike strips and roadblocks.

CNN | Oct 2, 2008

From Larry Shaughnessy

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The United States military’s Northern Command, formed in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, is dedicating a combat infantry team to deal with catastrophes in the U.S., including terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Soldiers preparing for a mission coordinated by Joint Task Force North, the U.S. Northern Command unit.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry, which was first into Baghdad, Iraq, in 2003, started its controversial assignment Wednesday.

The First Raiders will spend 2009 as the first active-duty military unit attached to the U.S. Northern Command since it was created. They will be based in Fort Stewart, Georgia, and focus primarily on logistics and support for local police and rescue personnel, the Army says.

The plan is drawing skepticism from some observers who are concerned that the unit has been training with equipment generally used in law enforcement, including beanbag bullets, Tasers, spike strips and roadblocks.

That kind of training seems a bit out of line for the unit’s designated role as Northern Command’s CCMRF (Sea Smurf), or CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force. CBRNE stands for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive incidents.

According to Northern Command’s Web site, the CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force is a team that will ultimately number about 4,700 personnel from the different military branches that would deploy as the Department of Defense’s initial response force.

Its capabilities include search and rescue, decontamination, medical, aviation, communications and logistical support. Each CCMRF will be composed of three functional task forces — Task Force Operations, Task Force Medical and Task Force Aviation — that have individual operational focus and mission skills, the Web site says.

The Army says the unit would be deployed to help local, state or federal agencies deal with such incidents, not take the lead. The law enforcement-type training is not connected to its new mission, it says.

Use of active-duty military as a domestic police force has been severely limited since passage of the Posse Comitatus Act following the Civil War.

Bloggers are criticizing the new force, saying that because it has been training in law enforcement tactics it could be be used for domestic law enforcement.

Troops may be trained in non-lethal tactics, but they are not trained for what they may have to deal with in domestic situations, said Gene Healy, a vice president of the conservative think-tank Cato Institute.

Healy said civilian police and, if circumstances are extreme, National Guard troops under the command of state governors should keep the peace.

“Federal troops should always be a last resort, never a first responder,” he said.

Critics also point to a General Accounting Office study in 2003 that found that domestic security missions put a strain on a military stretched thin by two simultaneous wars, and that a unit’s readiness for combat is reduced if the members have to take time out to respond to an emergency at home.

The U.S. military “is not a Swiss Army knife,” ready to fight the Taliban one week, respond to a hurricane the next and put down a major political protest the third week, Healy said.

The Army says the non-lethal training is an outgrowth of missions that troops have faced around the world in recent years.

“We need a lot more in our toolbox in order to deal with angry people on the street,” said Col. Barry Johnson of U.S. Army North.

The units are well-trained in the skills they might need to assist the Northern Command, and that won’t weaken the unit when and if it goes back to Iraq.

The designation of a specific unit as the CCMRF is a step forward, he said.

The active-duty military has long had units capable of handling chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or other domestic emergencies, such as hurricanes, Johnson said. But they were assigned as needed. Now they will have a unit that knows in advance that it might be called upon to respond in a domestic emergency.

“We don’t have the luxury to wish these things away. We have to imagine the unimaginable,” Johnson said.

Kindergarten Killing Game Removed After Finland School Shooting

A Web site has pulled a video game about shooting kindergarteners a week after Finland’s worst-ever school shooting. The debate about video games and violence continues.

findingdulcinea.com | Oct 2, 2008

by Josh Katz

Kindergarten Shooting Game Pulled

Finnish children’s gaming site lastenpelit.fi has removed the game “Kindergarten Killer” from its Web site following last week’s school shooting. In the game, players use a shotgun to shoot at students at a kindergarten. “We have removed pages from our site that are not necessarily appropriate for younger family members,” lastenpelit.fi said in a statement, according to The Guardian.

The situation again raises the question of whether video game violence has any link to violence. For example, The game “Grand Theft Auto” generated controversy when it was released in April, with the Parents Television Council arguing that it promoted violence and featured pornographic content. An attorney even claimed that earlier versions of the game “inspired his client Devin Moore to murder three police officers.”

But a recent study questions the theory that violent video games fuel violent behavior. “Violent crime, particularly among the young, has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s, while video games have steadily increased in popularity and use,” Patrick Kierkegaard, a doctoral student at the University of Essex in Britain, says.

Background: Saari kills 10 at Finland school

Matti Saari, 22, reported to be wearing a ski mask and carrying an automatic weapon, opened fire at the vocational Kauhajoki School of Hospitality in western Finland on the morning of Sept. 23, killing nine adult students and one teacher, and then himself, while the students were taking an exam.

A day earlier, police had questioned the gunman because of several YouTube posts depicting him firing a gun and comparing life to a “war.” There was not enough evidence for the police to hold him, however. The gunman reportedly created four YouTube videos, and listed the 1999 Columbine school shootings among his favorite videos. The BBC provides a clip from one of his posted videos.

Saari, a trainee chef at the school, allegedly killed his victims “one by one as they cowered on the floor and seemed to be ‘enjoying it,’” according to survivors, The Daily Telegraph writes. Three people in the classroom were able to escape. After shooting his victims, Saar set fire to the classroom, burning the bodies.

Last Thursday, children avoided class in Finland after a spate of alarming text messages and Internet postings incited fears of a potential copycat school shootshooting. Even in Sweden, a school was evacuated and a 16-year-old boy was arrested after appearing in a YouTube clip holding weapons, according to the Associated Press.

Authorities stressed the link between the recent attacker, Matti Juhani Saari, and Pekka-Eric Auvinen, who was responsible for a similar shooting in Finland last year. Reports indicate that the two might have even purchased their guns at the same place. “The cases were similar. They were the same type of person, so it could be possible,” investigation leader Jari Neulaniemi told the AP. “They had the same style of hair, same kind of clothing, same interests and ideals—and their deeds were the same.”

The two were apparently friends, playing war games together on the Internet and speaking about committing acts of violence. In reference to a shooting, one message read, “Let’s do it together,” according to The Daily Telegraph. Auvinen said, “If I can’t do it I know you can make it.”

In 2006, Saari had been discharged from the Finnish Army. One recruit said, “He wasn’t very good at shooting and didn’t really know how to handle a gun. One day we had to go into the woods and only the people at the front were supposed to shoot. … But he shot from the back and everybody was very scared. They decided he wasn’t suitable for the army.” Army recruits also said that they made fun of the “weird and silent” Saari.

Another friend of Saari said that Saari told him 18 months before the killings that he was going to shoot other students, “but later claimed to be joking,” The Daily Telegraph reports. Police also surmise that the death of Saari’s brother from a heart attack in 2003 may have also helped shape his mindset. “The killer idolised his brother,” according to The Telegraph.

Related Topics: Last year’s shooting; Finnish culture

About a year ago, Finland experienced another school shooting that shared similarities to the recent one. In that incident, 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen killed six students and the school’s nurse and principal and then shot himself in the head, after broadcasting his intentions on YouTube.

The shooting caused a debate in Finland, a country known for its gun culture, about the accessibility of guns. The country ultimately opted not to drastically change its gun laws, but said it would raise the minimum age for purchasing guns from 15 to 18.

According to The New York Times, “Some 1.6 million weapons are registered as being in private hands in a country with a population of some 5.3 million.” Finland also comes third to the United States and Yemen in terms of civilian gun ownership, the AP reports.

Now, after two shootings in about a year, Finland is also reexamining the mental state of its youth. Sirpa Haerkaelae, head of a Helsinki clinic, said that the clinic takes in 500–600 patients aged 13–23 per year. But the resources are not adequate to handle the need for help, she said, according to Agence France-Presse.

The World Health Organization indicates that Finland’s suicide rate among 15- to 25-year-olds is fifth in the world. Finland ranks second in the world when looking at girls alone. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) puts Finland second in alcoholism among 11- to 15-year-olds. Britain is first.

Psychiatrists and educators “point to Finns’ legendary reserve and unwillingness to express their feelings, entrenched individualism and growing isolation among people who do not quite fit the mold,” AFP writes. The suicide rate is three to four times higher in the north and east of the country, areas with smaller populations and fewer jobs.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also places Finland last among OECD countries in students’ enjoyment of school. “Our school system puts too much emphasis on pure performance, when we should ask for more creativity, game, ethics, esthetics, and how to cope with your life,” ombudswoman Aula said.

Melamine found in 18 more food products

CNN | Oct 3, 2008

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam’s health ministry has discovered the industrial chemical melamine in 18 food products imported from China and three other countries and has ordered them recalled and destroyed, officials said Friday.

Russian news agencies reported that food inspectors found nearly two tons of Chinese dry milk believed to be contaminated with melamine. And Philippines health officials found melamine in two of 30 milk products from China tested for the chemical.

Australian food regulators recalled China-made Kirin Milk Tea after tests in found the drink contained melamine. It is the fourth product withdrawn from the country’s stores in the wake of China’s tainted milk scandal.

Milk containing melamine has been blamed for killing four babies and sickening more than 54,000 with kidney stones and other illnesses in China. The contamination has sparked global concerns about food products made with Chinese milk or milk powder and recalls in several countries of Chinese-made products.

Chinese authorities believe suppliers trying to boost output diluted their milk, adding melamine because its nitrogen content can fool tests aimed at verifying protein content.

The tainted food has also spread to the U.S. where melamine has been found in Chinese-made White Rabbit Creamy Candy sold in California and Connecticut.

The Food and Drug Administration said Friday that trace amounts of melamine are safe in most foods, except for baby formula. A safety assessment by the agency concluded that 2.5 parts per million — a tiny amount — does not raise concerns. A week ago, the FDA warned consumers not to consume White Rabbit Candy and Mr. Brown coffee products because of possible melamine contamination.

Recent tests in Vietnam found melamine in dairy products and crackers imported from China, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, according to the Ministry of Health’s Web site. It did not list all the brand names that tested positive for melamine, but among them were five different varieties of Yili milk, one of the brands found to be contaminated in China.

“We will intensify our inspections for melamine contamination to ensure the safety of consumers,” said Nguyen Thi Khanh Tram, vice director of Vietnam’s food safety administration.

Most of the contaminated items were milk and dairy products from China, the ministry said.

However, they also included crackers imported from Malaysia and Indonesia as well as a powdered dairy creamer imported from Thailand. It was not clear whether those products had been produced in those countries or simply shipped to Vietnam from warehouses there.

Even before the test results were announced, retailers across Vietnam had begun removing tons of Chinese dairy products from their shelves and importers have been destroying them, Vietnamese media reported.

Vietnamese authorities have also said they will require all milk products to be tested before they can be imported.

Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III identified the two tainted brands Friday as Mengniu and Yili, which have already been found to be contaminated in tests in China.

Duque said 28 other products, including M&M chocolate candies, powdered milk and yogurt have been cleared for sale and 200 more were being tested. Additional results may be released early next week.

The Philippine government halted imports and sales of Chinese milk products pending inspections last week.
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Russia’s ITAR-Tass quoted Russia’s chief epidemiologist Gennady Onishchenko as saying that 2 tons of dry milk was seized in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk, on the Chinese border.

Consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor on Tuesday banned all imports of Chinese dairy produce.

FDA: A little toxic melamine in most foods nothing to worry about

AP | Oct 2, 2008

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tiny traces of melamine, the chemical that has set off a global food safety scare, are not harmful in most foods, except baby formula, government experts said Friday.

The Food and Drug Administration said Friday its safety experts have concluded that eating a minuscule amount of melamine — 2.5 parts per million — would not raise health concerns, even if a person ate food every day that was tainted with the chemical.

“It would be like if you had a million grains of sand and they were all white, and you had two or three that were black, that’s kind of the magnitude,” said Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA’s food safety program.

The FDA guideline is meant to help federal and state investigators checking for contaminated foods from China at ports of entry and in Asian community groceries around the country. “We are trying to identify products that have levels we are really concerned about, rather than trying to find the last molecule,” said Sundlof.

In China, melamine-tainted formula has sickened more than 54,000 children, mainly with kidney problems, and is being blamed for the deaths of at least four. The industrial chemical has also turned up in products sold across Asia, ranging from candies, to chocolates, to coffee drinks, all of which used dairy ingredients from China.

In the U.S., White Rabbit candies imported from China have been recalled after authorities in two states found melamine. And Friday, a New Jersey company announced it was recalling a yogurt-type drink from China, ‘Blue Cat Flavor Drink,’ after FDA testing found melamine.

No illnesses have been reported in the U.S., but authorities are checking for any telltale increase in reports of kidney problems.

The FDA says infant formula sold here is safe, because manufacturers do not use any ingredients from China. But officials expect more melamine recalls as they continue to test products in ethnic markets.

FDA officials stressed that the melamine risk assessment issued Friday does not mean U.S. authorities will condone foods deliberately spiked with the chemical.

The 2.5 parts-per-million standard is meant to address situations in which the chemical accidentally comes into contact with food. For example, plastic food processing equipment may have been made using melamine, and some of the chemical might find its way into food.

Infant formula sold to U.S. consumers must be completely free of melamine. “There is too much uncertainty to set a level in infant formula and rule out any public health concern,” the FDA said.

In China, unscrupulous suppliers appear to have been adding melamine to make watered-down milk seem protein-rich in quality-control tests. That’s because melamine is high in nitrogen, as is protein.

Melamine first came to the attention of U.S. consumers last year, when it touched off a massive pet food recall. Chinese suppliers of bulk pet food ingredients were found to have been adding the chemical to artificially boost the protein readings of their products. Thousands of pets here were sickened, and hundreds are believed to have died.

Melamine is harmful to the kidneys. It can cause kidney stones as the body tries to eliminate it, and in extreme cases, life-threatening kidney failure.

Debate analysis: Palin spoke at 10th-grade level, Biden at eighth

Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) and Republican vice presidential nominee Alaska Governor Sarah Palin talk after the vice presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri October 2, 2008. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

CNN | Oct 2, 2008

(CNN)  — An analysis carried out by a language monitoring service said Friday that Gov. Sarah Palin spoke at a more than ninth-grade level and Sen. Joseph Biden spoke at a nearly eighth-grade level in Thursday night’s debate between the vice presidential candidates.

The analysis by the Austin, Texas-based Global Language Monitor said Palin, governor of Alaska and the GOP vice presidential nominee, used the passive voice in 8 percent of her sentences, far more than the 5 percent used by the Democratic senator from Delaware.

The analysis noted that the “passive voice can be used to deflect responsibility; Biden used active voice when referring to [Vice President Dick] Cheney and [President] Bush; Palin countered with passive deflections.”

“It obscures the doer of the action,” said Language Monitor President Paul Payack, an independent with no political affiliation.

The two candidates were nearly even in total number of words spoken. The normally voluble Biden restrained his tendency to ramble by uttering just 5,492 words during the 90-minute debate, versus 5,235 for Palin, Payack said.

In last week’s debate between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, Obama spoke 8,068 words during the 90-minute event, while McCain spoke 7,150, Payack said.

Thursday night’s debate between the vice presidential candidates “was more collegial, thinking out loud as opposed to just hammering points,” Payack said in trying to explain the difference. “It was a much calmer style.”

His analysis ranked the candidates’ speech on several other levels, too. Here’s the breakdown:

Grade level: Biden, 7.8; Palin, 9.5 (Newspapers are typically written to a sixth-grade reading level.)

Sentences per paragraph: statistically tied at 2.7 for Biden and 2.6 for Palin.

Letters per word: tied at 4.4.

Ease of reading: Biden, 66.7 (with 100 being the easiest to read or hear), versus 62.4 for Palin.

The analysis said Abraham Lincoln spoke at an 11th-grade level during his seven debates in 1858 against incumbent Stephen A. Douglas in their race for a Senate seat from Illinois.

But higher grade level doesn’t necessarily mean better sentence, Payack said. He pointed to Palin’s second-to-last sentence in the debate, which the formula put at a grade level of 18.3:

“What I would do, also, if that were ever to happen, though, is to continue the good work he is so committed to of putting government back on the side of the people and get rid of the greed and corruption on Wall Street and in Washington,” Palin said.

“When she said it, it sounded good, but on paper it’s a completely different animal,” Payack said. “It’s like, what is that?”

But Biden had his own challenging moments, such as this 32-word gem, rated grade 15.6: “The middle class under John McCain’s tax proposal, 100 million families, middle-class families, households to be precise, they got not a single change; they got not a single break in taxes.”

Payack praised the usually longer-winded Biden for showing restraint here. “In a typical Joe Biden thing, this sentence would serve as a launching point to even more complex and convoluted statements. Last night, he was particularly reserved, and you only had to be a college graduate to decipher it, according to the readability statistics.”

US embassy in London moving to hardcore gay district next to MI6 spy agency

US embassy in London to switch to former industrial site

Diplomats will swap London’s premier residential and shopping district for a former industrial site in an area renowned for its hard-core gay clubs.

The Times | Oct 3, 2008

The United States is to abandon its embassy in London’s diplomatic quarter for a high-security compound south of the Thames that will offer better protection against the terrorist threat.

After 200 years in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, the embassy will transfer to a site overlooking the river between Battersea power station and the headquarters of MI6 at Vauxhall.

Diplomats will swap London’s premier residential and shopping district for a former industrial site in an area renowned for its hard-core gay clubs.

The planned move comes after a worldwide review of the safety of US embassies as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the War on Terror. A number have moved to secure locations outside city centres.

The London embassy, the biggest in Western Europe, was considered a key target for terrorism because of Britain’s close link to the United States. It has almost 800 staff, about half of whom are American.

The move will end a diplomatic presence in Mayfair dating back to the founding of the United States. Grosvenor Square was home to John Adams, the first Ambassador to London and the second President of the United States, from 1785 to 1788. The present 600-room embassy building was completed in 1960. There are still more than 930 years on a 999-year lease from the Duke of Westminster. The annual rent of one peppercorn is believed to have been paid in full several years ago with the presentation of three golden peppercorns.

For many people, the building will always be associated with the student protests against the Vietnam War and, more recently, the tributes after the terrorism attacks in 2001.

At least the move would bring an end to the dispute over the £8-a-day congestion charge, which Robert Tuttle, the US Ambassador, has refused to pay on the ground that diplomats are exempt from paying any taxes in Britain. It is claimed that the embassy owes more than £2 million, prompting the former Mayor, Ken Livingstone, to describe Mr Tuttle as a “chiselling little crook”. The new embassy site will be outside the congestion charge zone.

After the September 11 attacks, the present embassy was surrounded by concrete blast barriers and 6ft-high fences, and the road outside was closed to traffic. However, it was still considered vulnerable to vehicle-borne explosives or suicide attacks. Additional security measures requested by the embassy were opposed by neighbours, with more than a hundred residents taking out a newspaper advertisement complaining that its presence left the surrounding area vulnerable to terrorist attack.

The embassy is reported also to have considered developing the former Chelsea Barracks or a site in Osterley, near Heathrow. It was even rumoured to have asked to move into Kensington Palace, the former home of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Mr Tuttle admitted yesterday that security concerns were a key factor in the planned move, but said he also hoped that the new embassy would help to revitalise the south bank of the Thames. “We looked at all our options, including renovation of our current building,” he said. “In the end, we realised that the goal of a modern, secure and environmentally sustainable embassy could best be met by constructing a new facility.”

The ambassador said that the embassy would remain in Grosvenor Square if the move was not approved by Congress or local planners. The sale of the present building and proceeds from the recent disposal of the navy annexe would cover the cost of the new embassy, he said.

Mr Tuttle has already signed a deal with the Ballymore Group to buy the freehold of the new embassy site in the Nine Elms Opportunity Area. An international design competition will be held for the building.

Robert Davis, deputy leader of Westminster City Council, said: “We will be sorry to see the US Embassy leave as the current security arrangements we negotiated are working well, but we understand their desire to be in a more secure compound. Their departure will provide an opportunity for this famous site to be used by some other major organisation.”

The embassy will be put up for sale “almost immediately”, although buyers will be told that the building will not be vacated for at least five years.

Estate agents are reported to have placed a value of £500 million on the building, with developers expressing interest in using the site for a luxury hotel or flats. English Heritage has been in discussions with the embassy, however, over the possibility of giving the building a Grade II listed status, which would restrict the development possibilities severely.

Related

U.S. Moves Embassy in London Near Britain’s MI6 Spy Agency

Bloomberg | Oct 2, 2008

By Caroline Alexander

Oct. 2 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. government said it will move its embassy in Britain to the south London neighborhood of Vauxhall, near the nation’s MI6 spy agency.

The decision will close its present facility and end its 220 year residence at the western edge of Grosvenor Square near the shopping district on Oxford Street and in the heart of Mayfair, one of the city’s priciest residential areas.

“This has been a long and careful process,” said Ambassador Robert Tuttle, who has led the search for a new site since July 2005 when he arrived in London. “We looked at all our options.”

Shortly before meeting with reporters today, Tuttle said he signed on behalf of the U.S. government a conditional agreement with the real estate developer Ballymore Properties Ltd. to acquire five acres of land in the Nine Elms Opportunity area in Wandsworth, near Vauxhall Bridge and MI6.

Congress in the U.S. and local planning authorities must approve the decision. Tulett declined to say how much the deal is worth. The embassy will remain at Grosvenor Square for at least five years until the new building is completed.

Nine Elms is a district that runs west of Vauxhall Bridge on the south side of the River Thames to Battersea. It is home to the New Covent Garden, the U.K.’s largest wholesale fruit and vegetable market.

Regeneration Plan

The area is earmarked for regeneration after more than two decades of blight. Its main landmark is the derelict Battersea Power Station, the subject of a 4 billion-pound redevelopment plan by its Irish owners, Richard Barrett and John Ronan.

The first U.S. ambassador to Britain was John Adams, who lived on Grosvenor Square from 1785 to 1788. The U.S. also owned the nearby U.S. Naval building, where General Dwight D. Eisenhower made the decision to invade Normandy in World War II.

The embassy has been in Grosvenor Square since 1938 and has been on its present site, covering the whole of the west side of the square, since 1960. It has 225,000 square feet on nine floors for about 800 staff and an aluminum bald eagle with a wingspan of over 11 meters situated on the roof.

Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen designed the current building. It was opened in 1960, and at first the British public was invited to drop by the library and enjoy jazz concerts.

Security was tightened in the 1980s and 1990s following attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, including truck bombings at the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 that left 224 dead. After 2001, concrete barriers were erected at the site, roads were closed, and checkpoints set up and staffed by security officers armed with sub-machine guns.

Neighborhood Relations

The ambassador acknowledged that the security at the current site has strained relations with neighbors, though a $15 million upgrade in November 2007 helped soften the visual impact of the barriers. He denied that security concerns were the only reason for moving the embassy.

“We realized that the goal of a modern, secure and environmentally friendly building could best be met by constructing a new facility,” Tuttle said.

Profits from the sale of the Naval building last year and the future sale of the Grosvenor Square building would cover the costs of constructing a new site, Tuttle said. The embassy won’t be asking Congress for money, he added.

Jewish terrorism threatens Israel

One of Israel’s leading left-wing academics tells The Telegraph the future of the Israeli state is threatened as much by Jewish terrorism as it is by Palestinian militancy.

Telegraph | Oct 3, 2008

By Tim Butcher in Jerusalem

Professor Zeev Sternhell knows as much as anyone about the current threat from Jewish terrorism.

His right leg is recovering from shrapnel caused when a bomb, believed to have been the work of right-wing Jewish extremists, exploded outside the front door of his Jerusalem apartment last week.

While Arab-Jewish violence is common, the attack on the 73-year-old historian has shocked public opinion in Israel because all the evidence points to it being intra-Jewish.

“I consider it an act of Jewish terrorism,” he said in an interview from the modest apartment where the bomb exploded.

The glass front door is still broken and the wall plaster pitted with shrapnel marks.

His trenchant criticism of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and, in particular, Jewish settlers who make their home there in defiance of international law make him a hate figure for some Israeli right-wingers.

“I have no enemies in the criminal underworld and all the evidence points to the extreme right,” he said.

“I was lucky as the inner door protected me from most of the blast but what makes me angry and convinced it was terrorism was that whoever left it had no certainty it was going to hit me.

“It could have been my wife, Ziva, or one of our daughters or even one of my grandchildren who stay here often.

“For that reason it satisfies my definition of terrorism.”

There have been acts before of intra-Jewish violence, most notoriously the assassination by a right-wing extremist of the then Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, in 1995.

But Prof Sternhell said what is new is a younger and more radical seam of Jewish extremists from the West Bank and a sense of their desperation as the government appears to be coming round to accepting the need of withdrawing from the West Bank and evacuating the settlements.

“Left wingers like me have been arguing this for thirty years,” he said.

“But I think the radicals are more ready to use violence now because they feel that new thinking is developing.

“I think those on the West Bank believe our view have been adopted by the political elite.”

There has certainly been a shift in the Israeli government’s attitude. In 2005 Ariel Sharon, a veteran right-winger who had encouraged the settler movement, turned 180 degrees by ordering the closure of all 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank.

Ehud Olmert, the outgoing prime minister who was once a right-wing ideologue, has spoken repeatedly about the need for Israel to withdraw from almost all the West Bank if it wants lasting peace with Palestinians.
“This right-wing extremist violence defending the settlements is a danger to the future of Israel,” Prof Sternhell said.

“If you want a state of Jews, with Jews making up a large majority, which is how I and many others envisage Zionism, then keeping to the territory of the 1948 war of independence is the goal.

“If you want to keep the occupied territories then you suddenly have a country of roughly ten million people, split roughly half and half, Jewish and Palestinian.

“That can only lead to one thing where Jews will live in state as a minority.
“There are plenty of nicer places in the world I can think of where I can live in a Jewish minority.”

He made the point that of the 250,000 Israelis living in the West Bank settlements, four fifths are there for practical non-ideological reasons because they can buy bigger houses and enjoy a better quality of life than in the more expensive and crowded territory of Israel proper.

He said that left about 50,000 ideological settlers who live in the West Bank out of some sort of belief that it belongs to Biblical Israel and cannot be apart from the modern state of Israel.

He said only a tiny handful of these ideologues, numbering just one or two thousand, have such extremist views that they would resort to violence.
So far the Israeli police have made no progress catching those responsible for the bomb attack on Prof Sternhell.

But they have told him to remain on the lookout for suspicious activity around his home.

His views might have not changed in thirty years but there is a sense that extremist Jewish settlers have suddenly become more of a threat, even to elderly academics like Prof Sternhell.