Tuesday, April 30, 2019

"Cute" Otter Pet Fad in Southeast Asia

"Young otters are often taken from the wild while their mother is killed trying to defend her litter."
"The fact that there are so many newborns available also suggests that traders have no concern as to whether the animals survive or not."
Paul Yoxon, head of operations, International Otter Survival Fund

"[The Internet has largely driven the] logarithmic increase [in the popularity of otters as pets]."
"Sellers advertise online, and pet owners post endless cute pictures of their little otter, which spreads the news that otters make wonderful pets, which they don't."
Nichole Duplaix, conservation biologist, Oregon State University

"There's no way we can completely get rid of pet trade."
"In a country like Vietnam, it's much better that people are keeping otters rather than eating them."
"Some of these people really care about their animals, and if we can find a way to engage with them to show them why keeping otters is wrong, they can become advocates for wildlife conservation."
Daniel Willcox, science adviser, Save Vietnam's Wildlife
baby otter
Photo: Peter Hess

People make the most peculiar choices all too often when choosing pets. Endangered species, animals clearly unsuitable to be held out of their natural environment in a building; from constrictor snakes to tigers and lions. Yet people think that animals meant to be in the wild to live out their natural lifespan as nature intended them to be within a biology-appropriate environment specific to their species, will somehow respond positively to being placed in an entirely inappropriate setting, to please their own acquisitive egos.

When it comes to abuse of other species, this predilection for raising animals meant to be in the wild in urban settings, comes a close second to the trapping of wild and endangered species for medicinal or dinner table purposes and for ornamental uses. The lack of sensitivity to the existential rights and needs of animals by people fixated on their own needs is beyond unreasonable. Otters have now become a new pet-ownership status symbol. They are 'cute' and that alone is enough to make people of certain cultures who are given to admiring 'cuteness' line up to own them.

Otters are continually on the move, restless and active, high-wired and inquisitive, unwilling to be in any one place for any measure of time. They are smelly, they are explosively loud, are equipped with very sharp teeth and their jaws are strong enough to crack bones. And they're hugely popular as pets in Japan where animal cafes feature the presence of otters -- and people want them as the latest in exotic pets. People are disillusioned with their owls, slow lorises, sugar gliders and star tortoises; not as cute as otters. But equally inappropriate as pets.

People in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia all clamour for otters, and where can they be found, as animals difficult to breed in captivity? Captured in the wild, of course. Smooth-coated otters are on the threatened list, and hairy-nosed otters are on the endangered list, both are native to Southeast Asia. However, it is the Asian small-clawed otters, "terminally cute" that focus the attention of would-be pet owners and they've become primary targets for poachers.

Pollution and development have destroyed their habitats and fishermen and aquaculture farmers kill them because they are regarded as competition. In China, otter skins represent a market, so poachers hunt them for their skin as well as live young for the pet trade. Although it is illegal to trap, sell or export otters in Thailand, online trading is brisk. Doctoral candidate Penthai Siriwat at Oxford Brookes University, monitored seven Thai-language Facebook pages and found 572 otters listed for sale in a two-year period.

Half the otters listed for sale in Thailand represent newborn litters, their eyes not yet opened, the rest are juveniles for the most part, weaned on cat food, and more expensive to purchase since the sellers claim they are guaranteed to live, Siriwat reported in the Journal of Asia-Pacific Biodiversity. The trade in otters has spread from Thailand outward. In Japan a popular television series kicked off the trend, featuring a pet otter, and typically social media stars posted videos of visits to otter cafes, earning millions of views.

Traffic Japan, which monitors illegal wildlife trade, conducted research showing that 70 percent of otters from Southeast Asia were meant for the Japanese market. Police were given a tip that two men were smuggling five baby otters into Tokyo from Thailand and they were arrested and prosecuted. The man who tipped the police is himself the owner of a popular otter cafe with branches in Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukuoka. In the Tokyo location walls hold autographed photos of Japanese YouTube and television celebrities.

A river otter stands up after a go on the waterslide at Ichikawa Zoological and Botanical Garden in Ichikawa, east of Tokyo. Photo: AP
A river otter stands up after a go on the waterslide at Ichikawa Zoological and Botanical Garden in Ichikawa, east of Tokyo. Photo: AP

The cafe otters are sourced from a breeding facility founded by cafe owner Yoshiaki Nagayasu himself, in Malang, Indonesia where otters rescued from the illegal trade are bred. When they reach Japan, Mr. Nagayasu prices them at around $10,000 each -- with profits, he claims, returned to Indonesia for maintenance of the facility, along with wild otter conservation. "If we didn't do this business, all the otters you see here right now would probably be dead", he states.

However, at the breeding facility in Indonesia little evidence exists of conservation, according to the Scorpion Wildlife Trade Monitoring Group based in Medan, Indonesia. "One of the workers at the facility told me they got otters from around the area, from the wild", executive director Gumung Gea of Scorpion reported. At a meeting in May of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), international representatives are slated to vote on whether to give short-clawed and smooth-coated otters the highest level of protection.

If the international commercial trade of wild otters is banned, the increased protection would be helpful for otter protection, but would not end the illegal trade, according to Daniel Wilcox. Obstacles would be created by endemic corruption and challenges to enforcement, so that many species fully protected by CITES still are sold illegally.

Illegal otter trade in Southeast Asia

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Cleansing Sri Lanka of Islamist Murderers

"We had to declare an emergency situation to suppress terrorists and ensure a peaceful environment in the country."
"Every household in the country will be checked. [Lists of all residents will be made to] ensure that no unknown person can live anywhere."
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena

"I feel like I did a brave thing when I sent to see what was happening. [Perhaps this would mark the end of the terror stalking Sri Lanka recently]."
"We hope it's over. But we don't know."
Mohammed Rizwan, local shopkeeper, Sainthamuruthu, Sri Lanka
A blown-out wall inside the house next to the one rented by suspected terrorists in Sainthamaruthu. (Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/For The Washington Post)
In small towns people know one another. When strangers move in the townspeople take special note. In the seaside town of Sainthamaruthu this is exactly when happened when a house behind a  high wall and black metal gate was suddenly taken over by the arrival of complete strangers who got busy unloading boxes into the house. Something felt strange. So the new arrivals were approached by a group of the locals. Who asked them to leave.

This eastern shore town across the island from the capital Colombo became a very busy place on Friday as a nationwide security crackdown was taking place in the ongoing search for suspects of the massive death toll when coordinated bombings of three churches, three hotels and other locales occurred a week earlier. With their new emergency powers to stop and question people and to conduct raids police have been everywhere.

The vice-chair of a the Hijra Mosque, Imam Lateef, received a call from the house landlord about the group he had rented the home to, concerned about the people who had moved in. His suspicion was aroused by their behaviour, seriously enough for him to convey to the imam that the landlord wanted his new tenants to leave. Leading Imam Lateef and a few other mosque members to walk to the house to speak to the new tenants.

The family was from Kattankudy, responded the man who answered at the door. Which happened to be the hometown of Zahran Hashim, mastermind of the dreadful cross-country attacks. Kattankudy also had the distinction of being the base of National Thowheed Jama'ath, the group that Hashim founded. The mosque delegation asked the newcomers to leave by the day following. But following Friday prayers Mohammed Rizwan decided himself to check out the new residents.
Officers look at items including backpacks, plastic cylinders and batteries found inside a home rented by suspected terrorists in Sainthamaruthu. (Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/For The Washington Post)

He stopped by the house early on Friday evening when a man at the house told him to remove himself, pointing a gun for emphasis. Mr. Rizwan ran off and informed the closest police officer of what had confronted him. It took but minutes and the first blast shook the house, then another followed, and a third. Special police units and soldiers were swiftly at the scene with security forces exchanging gunfire with a man shooting an AK-47 rifle until he was shot dead.

Three people who happened by in an auto-rickshaw, ignoring warning to stop were shot by security forces, with two injured and one shot dead, a trio with no connection to the house and the attacks. Three miles from the rented house earlier in the day police found a cache of explosives in another house they raided, along with clothing and the ISIL flag the Easter Sunday bombers had used when they recorded a video of themselves swearing allegiance to ISIL.

On entering the house in Sainthamaruthu the following morning police found the bodies of children in a corner of a room along with two survivors, an injured woman and a toddler, later taken to hospital. The house was full of bomb-making equipment; detonators, wires, plastic tubes for explosives and three brand-new black backpacks. The body of the man shot by security forces lay outside. Torn sheaves of paper with the hadith printed on them were strewn about.

Local residents had spent the morning huddled at a school for shelter, awaiting the opportunity to return to their homes while the town was under a curfew, all roads closed, all shops shuttered. Sri Lanka's president stated that about 70 individuals with suspected ties to ISIL had been arrested, that an additional 70 suspects were at large. And finally, the National Thowheed Jama'ath Islamist extremist group behind the Easter attacks was banned.

Police wrap the body of a suspected terrorist killed outside a home rented by a suspected terror group in Sainthamaruthu, Sri Lanka. (Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/For The Washington Post)

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Changing Horses in Midstream

"Turkey must choose — does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history?" 
"Or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that will undermine our alliance?"
David Satterfield,  U.S. nominee ambassador to Turkey

"The Americans are confused. What we hear from the American Pentagon, the State Department, is it [the S-400 sale] will create troubles and reduce trust and cause sanctions. But the American president has said nothing."
"If [U.S. President Donald] Trump says don't buy [the S-400 missiles] it will carry much more political weight. However, as long as there is no statement from the American president, there will probably be no return from this deal."
"I was speaking to American diplomats. I told them, 'It's America's choice — do they want to hit Turkey with sanctions that will make an unstable Turkey, that will destabilize the rest of the region'?"
Huseyin Bagci, international relations professor, Middle East Technical University, Ankara

"It's like a slow-motion car crash."
"It's even difficult now to call Turkey and the U.S. allies, so I am not very optimistic about the relationship."
Former senior Washington-Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen
President Donald Trump, left, talks to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, as they tour the new NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, July 11, 2018.
Turkey's commitment to Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles has the U.S. claiming the missiles not to be compatible with the new F-35 Stealth fighter. Turkey has its commitments there, too as part of the F-35 consortium from its very beginning. The manufacture of F-35 parts in Turkey represents part of its role in the consortium, one that favours Turkey's industry and workforce. The first two of 100 aircraft has already been 'delivered' to Turkey, despite that they remain still in the United States.

The simple fact being that the technology of the two systems, the Russian S-400s and the F-35 will 'bleed' into each other with the Russians gaining invaluable insight into the capabilities in the underlying technology of the F-35s, and the U.S. feels, not without reason, that its advanced technologies must be shielded from Russia's advantaging themselves of what is the property of the U.S.

Therefore, delivery of Turkish-manufactured F-35 parts has been halted for the U.S. will not accept them.

The American military leaders have themselves urged the U.S. executive administration that the decision to sell the advanced fighter to Turkey must be cancelled. Other NATO nations also feel uneasy about Turkey's controversial decisions interpreting its position as a deliberate snub of NATO in favour of warming relations with Russia. To the extent that Turkey's lack of commitment to the group bespeaks its greater interest in forging firmer ties with NATO's perceived enemy.

Turkey, once considered to be geographically important to NATO, was thought of as representing a "southern flank" to the Alliance, to bolster the northern shore of the Mediterranean, to contain the Soviet Union. Turkey's Incerlik Air Base on its southern shore, close to Syria, was another asset which remains for the time being a major U.S. and NATO base, holding hundreds of American tactical nuclear weapons.

But that was then, and this is now, and now Turkey is vastly different as a link between the Middle East and Europe, considered on the brink of Eastern Europe, a Muslim country of influence. At that time, a moderate democracy, Muslim-style, its free-enterprise system reflective of the West, a result of the post-Ottoman Empire, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk turned it away from conservative Islam toward a simulacrum of a Western democracy, sharing Western values, with a free press and independent courts and representative government.

Turkey now is an Islamist nation, its Ataturk past slow dissolving back into its Ottoman Empire persona. Gone the free press and the independent judiciary in favour of full 'control' in the hands of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party headed by himself in perpetuity. Social repression, an ongoing war of attrition against its Kurdish population, now more accurately reflect Erdogan's new Turkey.

 Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a firm supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, violently disruptive group that came out of Egypt in the early 20th Century; the Salafist Islamist group supportive of jihad. As far as Erdogan is concerned, Hamas represents a responsible government in Gaza, and Israel is an aggressive tormentor of Palestinians. "Christian" Europe seeks to undermine Muslim authority and Erdogan will not have it; the Empire will rise again under his rule. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend a ceremony to mark the completion of the sea part of the TurkStream gas pipeline in Istanbul on 19 November (AFP)

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Waiting ... Waiting ... Waiting

"The group has certainly been decimated in terms of territorial ownership, but the ideology is ... thriving."
"The Islamic State affiliates, wannabes, inspired, are still around and they're going to do what they can, whenever they can."
"We have a tendency to think that current events dictate future events. But I see nothing to suggest this is the new normal."
Phil Gurski, former senior strategic analyst, Canadian spy agency CSIS

"[The Easter Sunday Sri Lanka attacks represented one added manifestation of ISIL's opportunism to spread terror to] whatever venues are available."
"The fact of the matter is that [ISIL] suffered grievous setbacks in Western Iraq and Syria. But severely damaging a terrorist group is not the same as undermining its ideology or destroying its raison d'etre."
Revenge and retaliation for the lost caliphate has now infused [ISIL] with newfound purpose and energy."
Bruce Hoffman, terrorism analyst, Georgetown University

"I think that what our security systems have to really get on top of is that, if you have small groups ... they can mobilize quickly nowadays."
"It's such an interconnected world, and once they believe this poison, it's very virulent."
Anne Speckhard, head, International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism

"[Extremists inspired by terror groups such as ISIL and al-Qaeda remain the No.1 national security danger to public safety in this country."
"[ISIL] has lost significant amounts of territory due to the military actions of an international coalition which includes Canada. It has now shifted away from a focus on statehood to rebuilding its capacity and influence, and conducting insurgencies in both Syria and Iraq, and CSIS assesses that [ISIL] will continue its efforts to inspire and encourage operations abroad."
"The phenomenon of radicalization to violence, both offline and online, remains a great concern to Canada and its allies."
John Townsend, CSIS spokesman
A statue is pictured next to shrapnel marks at St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo on April 22, a day after the building was hit as part of a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka.
A statue is pictured next to shrapnel marks at St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo on April 22, a day after the building was hit as part of a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

According to Kamran Bokhari, director of the Center for Global Policy in Washington, sole focus on ideology and radicalization diverts from an equally vital issues eluding intelligence analysts and law enforcement: tradecraft. An entire "middle management layer" and funding stream that operates behind the scenes has not yet been fully comprehended, much less explored. "We haven't mapped out the ISIL creature, this entity."

"We don't have a good map of who's who. We don't know how this thing operates", he insists. Perhaps he could direct them to re-read Dore Gold's Hatred's Kingdom for starters, and then peruse the Koran, go to the Hadiths, sit on on Friday prayers at any local mosque....

What terrorism analysts are saying is that the central command of ISIL is taking credit for at the very least, inspiring the Sri Lankan Islamist group that carried out the massive co-ordinated bombings at three mosques and three hotels on Easter Week Sunday, killing up to 250 people and injuring another 500, as yet another victory in their jihad against Christianity and the West. More to come. Wherever opportunity leads.

Islamic State is, in essence, celebrating its new, re-energized brand, its virally lethal repudiation of all that is not strictly in adherence to an original Islamic code of exclusion, domination and conquest. Sleeper cells, loyal to and dedicated to the martyrdom ideology are everywhere. Just as the Muslim Brotherhood and arms loyal to Hamas and Hezbollah have infiltrated civilized societies manifesting their presence during occasional 'protests' where their flags are seen, ISIL's influence is also present.

"I think it's fundamentally true we will be encountering much more than lone wolf attacks in the coming years in Canada and beyond", cautioned Amarnath Amarasingam, senior research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. For just as Islamic State succeeded in drawing thousands of recruits from abroad to their caliphate sites in Syria and Iraq to its front lines, additional thousands absorbed by their strident militarism remain in situ to eventually disclose their presence through terrorist attacks.

Captured ISIS wives in Syria. What will become of the radicalized children? (Photo: DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Captured ISIS wives in Syria. What will become of the radicalized children? (Photo: DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Its propaganda machine will not be silenced. Defying the success of the international military coalition that managed to erase its regional geography, its ideological attraction has no boundaries and many receptors. According to a November report issued by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as many as 230,000 Salafi-jihadist and allied fighters around the world are in place, in 2018 figures representing an 270 percent increase from 2001.

That's an impressive number of the ideological faithful favouring martyrdom and mass slaughter. Those numbers representing broad constituencies linked to the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and affiliates, assorted other Salafi-jihadist and allied groups, their inspired networks and loyal individuals. But not to be too concerned; most of the bloody damage is being done within countries of the non-West where global intelligence levels are low as is intelligence-sharing.

"We have to be worried about those who have come back", cautions Kyle Matthews, executive director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University. "Are they prepping the next generation of young Canadians to their cause? Have they given up their world views? I'm not too sure". CSIS figures have it that about 190 "extremist travellers" from Canada travelled abroad.

The 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada stated that close to 60 of that greater number had returned. And how to "contain" them? "The real battlefront is on the ideological level", states Matthews, with Canada and its allies urgently required to be more aggressive in the prosecution of ISIL fighters, domestically and through an international tribunal.

And . good . luck . to . that.

An American citizen and former college student, Hoda Muthana, left the US four years ago to join ISIS. She is currently being held in a refugee camp in northeastern Syria. President Donald Trump has tweeted that he had directed Mike Pompeo “not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!” Hoda Muthana’s story is not unique – it reflects a widespread issue around the world, as democratic nations try to figure out how to deal with hundreds  of returning ISIS fighters

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Glacial Melt

"They aren't living things. But I do tend to anthropomorphize them."
"They have a  unique character; they surprise you how they change. They develop personalities."
Shawn Marshall, glaciologist, University of Calgary

"What happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic."
Judah Cohen, MIT climatologist
After recent reports about the demise of the ice fields, researchers hope the public will better understand the rapid pace of climate change. Photograph: RE Johnson / Design Pics/Getty Images/First Light

Near the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland the Gormer glacier has been shrinking at a rapid pace. In 2007 that pace was recorded at 290 metres of recession. The glacier has since then continued its way up the mountain by approximately 30 metres annually, and as it does it reveals what lies beneath. A 40-year-old camera, a mitten, a human bone, the remains of two hikers and those of a father and son who had gone missing in 1967 were revealed in 2009.

Vanished hikers in the surrounding Alps and skiers, a Second World War bomber plane, Roman shoe nails, and countless pieces of mountaineering equipment have also been revealed as glaciers have surrendered their presence to melt. Bronze age artefacts (remember Oetzi, the Bronze Age mummified man who made headlines when he was discovered in the Italian Alps...?).

And then there is Canada where a recent report from Environment and Climate Change Canada revealed that the country's warming is twice the rate of the rest of the world (1.7C as opposed to 0.8C within the last 70 years). Greenland and Antarctica have more ice than Canada, but Canada's share of the world's glaciers is substantial, at number three.

A glacier landscape on northern Ellesmere Island
On northern Ellesmere Island, warming land and sea temperatures have caused glacier melt to accelerate, according to new research. (Photo: Luke Copland)

Between 2004 and 2015, according to a 2017 study out of University of California at Irving, the melt rate of glaciers on Queen Elizabeth Islands in Canada rose by a whopping 900 percent. Those glaciers are melting over 30 billion tons of ice into water on an annual basis. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2018 released the Arctic Report Card showing 95 percent of the oldest Arctic ice has vanished.

In the Canadian Rockies only three glaciers have been measured with the use of radar; the Athabasca, Peyto and Haig glaciers, the Athabasca being the largest in the Columbia icefield straddling the Great Divide at the northern end of Banff National Park. The most visited glacier in North America, the Athabasca glacier  is in danger of wholly disappearing within two generations. The Peyto will be next.
An icefield in the Saint Elias Mountains, where melting is at its most rapid. (HO-Zac Robinson/The Canadian Press)

Rocky Mountain glaciers will lose 80 to 90 percent of their volume by the year 2100, according to glaciologist Shawn Marshall, formerly Canadian Research Chair in Climate Change.

In West Antarctica, the Thwaites Glacier, the size of Florida, has become critically unstable to the point where if it melts it could result in a rise in sea level of over a metre on its own, according to climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer at Princeton. It could trigger instability to the extent that a chain reaction could ensue raising sea levels by three metres, engulfing Manila and Mumbai.

Glaciers' melt rate accelerates as they lose mass, becoming more vulnerable and with rising temperatures and more rain in place of snow, the melting process reveals rocky detritus, dark enough to attract the heat of the sun so that the rate of melt increases.

The Wedgemont Glacier, north of Whistler, B.C. Of the estimated 200,000 square kilometres of Canadian glaciers, one quarter is found in the west of the country, with the remainder in the Arctic. (Steve Hamilton)

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Friday, April 26, 2019

Terror and Murder : The Hallmarks of Islamist Jihad

"We are really angry. We are angry at the people who did this, and we are angry at the officials who were given some warning of the attacks but did not inform anyone, not even the church leaders. If they had, we would not be here today, burying so many people."
"[The community's faith leads them to remain calm, to avoid confrontation, to forgive, not blame]. We have done that. We have been calm, and we are still calm. We are not in a rush to fight."
"But we should have been warned. What the government did was very wrong."
Rajita Rodrigo, 33, public accountant, Negombo, Sri Lanka
Funeral ribbons hanging across a road leading to St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, the capital, which remained under a nighttime curfew. Credit Carl Court/Getty Images
"[The government must hunt down the attackers and] punish them mercilessly, because only animals can behave like that."
"[Our parishioners should] not take the law into their own hands [but] maintain peace and harmony."
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo

"We know that no place in the world is secure, that radicalism does not follow the rule of love."
"But the government cannot wash its hands of this. The group who did these blasts is responsible for them, but the government showed great neglect."
Reverend Mahendra Gunetiliki, Negombo
Coffins are carried for burial after a group funeral Mass for victims.   Credit  Adam Dean for The New York Times
"That is my mother-in-law [grave number 22]. Her name was Mary Margaret. My daughter was supposed to go with her to church on Easter, but at the last minute she didn't."
"I am happy for that, but I can still see all those bodies in the church, those people barely alive, begging for help."
"During the war, security was very strict, but after it was over, a lot of freedom came."
"Someone has taken advantage of that freedom. They have used it to organize and kill people. They are still organizing. This is not finished."
Amjud Dissilla, 36, sales executive, Negombo
Sri Lanka revises bombings death toll down by 100
People light candles at the funeral of a 13-year-old victim of a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka  [Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]

Whenever attacks of this magnitude take place, where scores of innocents are murdered by rabid Islamists declaring their undying fealty to a religion and a concept of a supreme being both of which demand of the faithful that they recognize their responsibility to jihad, to spread the faith, to become martyrs to be rewarded in Paradise, and to achieve their martyrdom through slaughter, the world knowingly mutters that these are 'underprivileged' people, people of faith who are vulnerable, who have been left on the margins of society.

Invariably, those taking part in these atrocities turn out to be people of social advantage, wealthy, cultured, with academic educations whose virulent hatred for those they claim are insufficiently Islamic gives them the right to embark on murder sprees for Islam -- against those of their own religion, against the Jews, the Crusaders, the kufars. "Their thinking is that Islam can be the only religion in this country. They are quite well-educated people", pointed out Sri Lanka's junior defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene.

The seven suicidist-murderers had among themselves people who studied in Australia the U.K. and the U.S. At least one finished a law degree. Two were brothers of a millionaire industrialist family. When police arrived at the home of one of the Ibrahim brothers after the Easter Sunday attacks that killed over 350 Sri Lankans including a number of foreigners in the attacks against three Christian churches and four upscale hotels in Colombo and Negombo, the pregnant wife set off a blast that killed her, her three children and three police officers.
ISIS's Amaq news agency released an image on Tuesday showing the jihadis who carried out the devastating bomb attacks last week. Despite the Amaq statement mentioning seven terrorists, eight people can clearly be seen in the photo. Pictured centre is purported National Thowfeek Jamaath leader Moulvi Zahran Hashim
ISIS's Amaq news agency released an image on Tuesday showing the jihadis who carried out the devastating bomb attacks last week. Despite the Amaq statement mentioning seven terrorists, eight people can clearly be seen in the photo. Pictured centre is purported National Thowfeek Jamaath leader Moulvi Zahran Hashim

The two brothers, Inshaf Ibrahim, 33 and Ilham 31, had blown themselves up at the Cinnamon Grand hotel and the Shangri-La. Colossus Copper, a manufacturing facility located in an industrial estate east of Colombo is owned by the Ibrahim family. It is the factory where investigators state the suicide vests, along with nuts and bolts to be packed into the vests, were produced. It was Inshaf's wife Fatima who blew herself, her three young sons and the three police who were raiding the home to death

Islamic State released a video of the suicide bombers as they swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Indian intelligence officials had issued warnings of a detailed nature to the authorities in Sri Lanka that Zaharan Hashmi, an extremist preacher and leader of the group National Thowheed Jamaath was planning attacks -- two weeks before those attacks became reality. A former Sri Lankan Army bomb expert, according to Indian intelligence, may have helped in the production of the bombs, as an associate of Hashmi. Hours before the bombs were set off, Indian authorities once again alerted their Sri Lankan counterparts.

What's more, the Muslim community in Sri Lanka had themselves repeatedly informed government agents over a three-year period that Hashmi used online sermons preaching hatred against Hindus and Christians. Thirty Sri Lankans had joined Islamic State from 2015 onward, yet the authorities in Sri Lanka appear to have taken little note of their return. Four members of the National Thowheed Jamaath group had been arrested in January when 100 kilograms of military-grade explosives and detonators were found at a remote plantation on the island's west coast.

The four were released on bail, pending their trial date, despite that the farm where the explosives were discovered was clearly used as a training depot for jihadists. Reports circulated that they planned to blow up Buddhist monuments in the ancient Sri Lankan city of Anuradhapura. Similar to the loss of the Bimayan Valley, Afghanistan Buddhist statues of great antiquity and gigantic proportions by the Taliban, who took delight in destroying world heritage site monuments because Islam forbids the worship of idols.

More than 350 people were killed in the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka [Reuters]
More than 350 people were killed in the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka [Reuters]

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Mea Culpa: White and Colour-Guilty. Minimizing Islamist Terrorism

"Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, incels, nativists, and radical anti-globalists who resort to violent acts are a threat to the stability of my country and countries around the world. [Those attacks] need to be at the top of our agenda when we talk about confronting terrorism."
"[White supremacism is] one of the most serious terrorist threats of the current age. [The online spread of hate is] an international problem, and we need to act collectively to address it."
"[Hatred is] increasingly spread through the internet, [in online forums and on social media]. We must be aware of this, and work to stop it. Our work cannot be undertaken in isolation. Each of our countries will of course address this issue in different ways, but we need to recognise that this is ultimately an international problem, and we need to act collectively to address it."
"In the wake of acts of terrorism carried out by Muslim extremists, Western countries often call upon Muslim countries and Muslim leaders to condemn those attacks in the name of their people and their faith. It should follow that, as the foreign minister of a majority white and majority Christian country, I feel a specific and personal responsibility to denounce white supremacist attacks in the same way."
"Each of our countries will, of course, address this issue in different ways, but we need to recognize that this is ultimately an international problem, and we need to act collectively to address it."
"The Internet and social media know no borders and so we must work together to find ways to address online radicalization."
Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada
Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland addresses the United Nations Security Council debate on terrorism on March 28, 2019 in New York City. (Global Affairs Canada/Facebook)
"What our research [shows] is that there is a diversity of threats out there related to violent extremism, and there are many different ideologies that can create this problem."
"There are a number of ideologies where Alberta is disproportionately represented, in terms of the numbers that we're producing."
"The individuals that we're seeing are really on the margins of extremist movements."
John McCoy, executive director, Organization for the Prevention of Violence (OPV)

"[Alberta is home to] both intimate and established networks [tied to al-Qaeda and affiliated groups, and] highly isolated cases that are connected with AQAS networks wholly online."
"Today, the trend is very much towards the latter. As seen in the OPV’s research on hate, there was near unanimity in the belief that things are getting worse, not better, due in part to this global political climate where expression of discrimination, hate and broader ‘us versus them’ narratives are taking hold."

"Respondents were dismayed to see this occurring in Canada, a nation whose identity is in large part constructed on the basis of immigration and multiculturalism."

Extremism and Hate Motivated Violence in Alberta Report, Organization for the Prevention of Violence

The report, titled Extremism and Hate Motivated Violence in Alberta -- one hundred pages listing extremist groups in the province, estimates of membership, and views of violent or potentially violent ideological movements and whether the groups are growing or shrinking in membership and prominence provides a fairly wide view of threat activities with the potential to destabilize the province and perpetrate violence on a wide scale. OPV points out that al-Qaeda, its affiliates and splinter groups — referred to as AQAS in the report — continue to present as a direct threat in Canada despite international counterterrorism efforts.

The report was built painstakingly around interviews with over 170 law enforcement members representing the RCMP, as well as each municipal police service in the province of Alberta. What was established in the report is that Alberta represents the province with a disproportionate share of extremist movements; far-right groups and those travelling abroad to join armed groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. An intervention program hoping to guide people away from extremist movements was developed as well by the organization.

Researchers interviewed roughly 120 people from communities where hate and extremism directly affected them. Some fifty service providers specializing in violence and at-risk youth, and 212 "formers"; people previously associated with extremist movements, or their family members, were also extensively interviewed. Mr. McCoy -- the OPV executive director, is also a professor at University of Alberta whose specialty is terrorism studies -- spoke of a major conclusion, that individuals on the edges of extremist groups, those who have been most frequently radicalized through social media, represent the biggest threat to society. 
A video was recently released of Toronto's Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed, after he was captured by Kurdish forces battling ISIS in Syria. (CBC)

According to the report, from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, fundraising, money laundering and promotion and propaganda took place in the province in support of foreign fighters in the Middle East, North Africa and Bosnia. The report estimated that between 30 and 40 people from Alberta travelled abroad to fight for armed groups in the Middle East, North Africa and Bosnia, disproportionate in number to Alberta's population as compared to the rest of Canada and the numbers of jihadis who chose to leave to ally themselves with Islamist terrorist groups overseas.

 From Calgary alone, roughly twenty jihadis travelled to Syria and Iraq; ten of that number sharing an identified connection with a now-shuttered mosque located in downtown Calgary. Shuttered not only due to its reputation as a breeding ground inspiring resentment against the West, but to its purposeful incitement to bring the faithful as recruits to the Islamic sacred duty of jihad, inspiring to the young and the restless, searching to fulfill meaning in their lives as required by their faith.

Given the situation in the Middle East, with the Islamic State Caliphate no longer a physical reality and the understanding that the searing ideology of hatred and martyrdom cannot be extirpated from the minds of dedicated believers as readily as geography can be wrenched from warring usurpers, the concern has turned inward in the realization and acknowledgement that ISIL has groomed its followers to attack anywhere, at any time, using any methods available to make their statement of jihad's resilience.
A Canadian man allegedly fighting for Islamic State was captured in Syria, according to Syrian Democratic Forces. In a video released Sunday he says his name is Mohammad Abdullah Mohammad.Screen grab
As to other worrisome groups of anti-social extremists which the report listed, the estimate is that approximately 150 to 250 Freemen on the Land in Alberta remain active in their perception that government is illegitimate and therefore no taxes need be extracted from them voluntarily to government coffers. The majority are recognized as non-violent though the report points out that ten to 15 Alberta Freemen have "demonstrated a behavioural propensity for violence". Left-wing extremists identified in the report are not seen to have been involved in major violent incidents, nor are they viewed as a "significant threat to public safety".

Moving on to patriot and militia groups motivated "primarily by xenophobia and anti-government views", many members share anti-Islamic sentiments with some engaging in survivalist activities such as "prepping" and firearms training as well as "street patrols", which "primarily target visible minority, newcomer and refugee communities -- Muslims in particular". Yet there is no evidence that groups such as the Three Percenters, Sons/Soldiers of Odin, the Canadian Infidels/Clann, True North Patriots and Northern Guard are violence prone or "would represent a significant threat to public safety or national security".

Which leaves White Supremacy/Associated Ideologies with the report pointing out that the Ku Klux Klan which once had 50 chapters in Alberta 90 years ago has been reduced to a few small, largely rural groups. And that organized white supremacist groups, largely dormant until the late 1980s with a membership of 100 has bloomed since with a number of skinhead, neo-Nazi and "Aryan" groups active latterly in the province; violent years falling between 2008 and 2012 with ten "noteworthy" incidents of assaults on immigrants and visible minorities.

None of these identified groups in the terrorism range or as threats to society have brought bloodshed in any sphere of society remotely comparable to the virulent threat that Islamism's jihad-aligned terrorism has. Yet the government of Canada chooses to wax eloquent and determined to eradicate the unsavoury (to be sure) presence of white supremacists, equating their hateful ideology with that of the murderous mass-death-delivering psychosis of religious divine edicts to the faithful in Islam to go out and slaughter the infidels.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Analyzing Islamist Butchery

"Even during the civil war, we never had such violent attacks, especially in places of worship."
"We cannot let this change us. We must all work together to eradicate terrorism. We should learn from the past."
Reverend Indarajid Sunasekaran, Catholic priest

"[I fear the massacre may unleash instability. I will] vest all necessary power with the defence forces [to act against those responsible]."
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
Residents pray outside St. Anthony’s Church on Tuesday in Colombo, Sri Lanka. St. Anthony’s was attacked during one of the bomb blasts on Sunday. (Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The Washington Post)

Instability? Perhaps he should speak sternly with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena who so cleverly dismissed the prime minister, dissolving the Cabinet as well. When Sunday's horror was  unleashed President Sirisena was out of country. But though the Sri Lankan Supreme Court had reversed the dismissal of the prime minister he had not been permitted to attend meetings of the Security Council since his ouster.

Repercussions of that brilliant manoeuvre were seen in the fact that the prime minister nor his government had any inkling that Indian intelligence had given warning to Sri Lanka's intelligence community of the imminence of terrorist attacks. Given short shrift, with that metaphorical shrug of how bad could it be, a few little disturbances can be dealt with through regular channels. Which appear to have come up rather short in deterrence in view of the ensuing slaughter.

Now, in the wake of the bloody horror visited on Sri Lanka courtesy of its  home-grown terrorist group, the National Thowheeth Jamaath, whose affiliation with global Islamist terrorism Sri Lanka's intelligence authority somehow managed to overlook as a simmering threat, the Sri Lankan government has paid homage to that intelligence authority's competence by giving the military sweeping new police powers.

A nationwide state of emergency has been announced in the wake of the co-ordinated blasts at St.Anthony's Shrine, the Cinnamon Grand, Shanri-La and Kingsbury hotels in Colombo, and two churches outside Colombo, celebrating Easter Mass. Well over a hundred people died in Negombo at St.Sebastian's Catholic Church alone. Over 500 people injured, 290 dead, and 24 suspects arrested.

In the attacks ceilings collapsed, windows were blasted out and worshippers and hotel guests were dead on the spot; blood and flesh covering walls from disintegrating human bodies. Later, three unexploded bombs inside a van parked near one of the churches exploded while police were attempting to defuse them. 
"The Sri Lanka blasts were both sophisticated and well coordinated, making it very likely that the attackers received some sort of training and assistance from ISIS — possibly from one of the group’s bases in the Philippines or elsewhere in the region."
"However, ISIS generally has built its global network by recruiting from existing extremist groups around the world."
Rita Katz, co-founder, SITE Intelligence Group

"It is too early to tell the degree of involvement from ISIS — beyond inspiration and even embedding the jihadi DNA in local extremist groups."
"That said, we should not be too dismissive of ISIS claims or capabilities. I do think it is possible that ISIS has communicated directly or embedded with these local groups and found a way of helping plot, amplify and supercharge their capabilities and operational effectiveness on the ground. The ISIS diaspora and expertise is real, and ISIS has global designs — in South Asia and elsewhere."
Juan Zarate, chairman, Financial Integrity Network

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Mystery of Life and Death

"We can then look at survivors and see if they can recall any of these stimuli, and when they were able to receive information, and how that relates to their brain resuscitation quality."
"What happened to this person's mind and consciousness, this sweet human being that I was talking to just a half an hour ago? Is he conscious? Is he able to see us, hear us? When did he lost it, if he did lose his consciousness?:

"Transcendental mystical or spiritual experiences close to death have been described for millennia. The problem with all those studies are that none of them are causative -- none of them show you how brain cells could possibly generate a thought, which is the fundamental problem of consciousness."
"Why would my brain cells, millions of them connected together, suddenly feel guilty, or have a sentiment of guilt, like if I were to throw a brick in my neighbour's window, or be rude to somebody or do something immoral?"
"Yet, paradoxically, what we started to see is that millions of people have now been resuscitated, and many of them have reported these very lucid, well-structured thought processes [able to to form memories, describe conversations and what people were wearing] Except that their brain has shut down and they've gone through death. Which is completely a paradox, it should not happen."
"We're all conscious, thinking beings. Everything we do starts with consciousness. Yet we don't know fundamentlaly where it comes from."
Dr. Sam Parnia, author, AWARE, awareness during resuscitation, resuscitation specialist, NYU Langone Medical Center
Cornelia Li for National Post

"If you take that organ [the brain] away or kill that organ or that organ dies, you cannot be conscious. [While there is no identified conscious centre of the brain, nothing to point to and claim] 'there, that's where it all happens."
"And I know of no case in the literature of a brain dead patient coming back."
Adrian Owen, neuroscientist, Western University

"Serotonin in particular was very high [in dying brains]. We know that the serotonin is associated with hallucinations and other mental functions."
"But the part that is at least partly responsible for conscious information processing is actually increased tremendously in the dying brain [for 30 seconds at least]."
Jimo Borjigin, associate professor, University of Michigan Medical School
Dr. Parnia believes that human consciousness may very well go on even after our heart stops beating for an undetermined period of time. He has taken the testimony of many people whose detailed descriptions of their out-of-body-at-death experience he gives credence to. A man, for example who suffered a cardiac arrest, and his brain "flatlined", with no sign of brain activity of any meaning. He described someone beckoning to him from the ceiling, and then the next second, "I was up there, looking down at me", a corpse, surrounded by doctors, nurses.

He witnessed his blood pressure being taken, a doctor placing something down his throat, saw a nurse pumping on his chest. He described the people, the sounds and the events of his eventual "resurrection". The man experienced conscious awareness for three to five minutes in the absence of detectable brain activity, "When no human experience should be happening whatsoever", stated Dr. Parnia, who cited the case in his study published in 2014 called AWARE.

According to Dr. Parnia, who has made himself an expert on the phenomenon, evidence from AWARE along with other related studies brings in the possibility that the mind or consciousness; the psyche, the "self", the spirit that reflects our uniqueness may not originate after all in the brain as popularly imagined as reality, but may rather reflect a separate, as yet-undiscovered scientific entity. Modern science at the present time lacks the tools required to demonstrate this, that when we die, what we name consciousness or the self does not become "immediately annihilated".

Dr. Parnia is not religious, he is not looking for proof of an afterlife; he and others who believe as he does are attempting to discover improved methods whereby the brain can be saved to avoid "disorders of consciousness", such as that which afflicted a Florida woman who suffered massive brain damage which resulted in a permanent vegetative state following a cardiac arrest. He is also searching for a method whereby he can test the accuracy of fantastical claims of near-death experiences with the use of objectively scientific approaches.

He plans to measure, second by second, oxygen levels inside the brain through a planned study of 1,500 people in cardiac arrest when a "code" is called so participating researchers, once alerted can dispatch themselves to resuscitation rooms with backpacks carrying portable brain oxygen monitoring devices. A portable EEG will measure whether the brain is functioning, and patients will be fitted with wireless headphones where random words and sounds will be transmitted and images beamed upwards as people undergo CPR.

The ultimate goal is to understand the optimal brain oxygen levels to be targeted by doctors during cardiac arrest and CPR to be able to optimize survival and bring a whole person back from cardiac arrest, with intact brain and mind and full functionality for their living future. This reflects advances in resuscitation where death can be reversed in those who have lacked a pulse for hours. Even greater numbers of people could be brought back across the death threshold, believes Dr. Parnia, if more hospitals implemented advanced techniques; chilling bodies to protect the brain, or using automated mechanical devices for chest compressions beyond what a human could perform.

Most people ultimately die of cardiac arrest, irrespective of how it has come about; the drop of blood pressure, the heart's inability to pump sufficient blood to supply the body, the heart eventually stops, respiration stops, electrical activity to the brain stops, and the brain flatlines. Studies suggest that six to 23 percent of cardiac arrest survivors report having clear memories fitting the parameters of a near-death experience. From a functional perspective, the moment the heart stops, the brain shuts down, said Dr. Parnia; even so, people become resuscitated, they form memories, describe conversations, "Except that their brain has shut down and they've gone through death".

The notion of a soul or mind existing separate from the body, charge his detractors is absurd. "I thought to myself, we can probably figure this [conundrum of brain-mind and near-death phenomenon] out in, like, a year, year-and-a-half of research", muses Dr. Parnia. He's still struggling with it after twenty years, with no end in sight, but opportunities to conduct further research, looking for that elusive "eureka!" moment of discovery.

Cornelia Li for National Post

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Monday, April 22, 2019

Nothing Succeeds Like Success

"I am a staunch supporter of my country establishing diplomatic ties with Israel. I know many people who are in favor of this move. Like myself they wonder why it has taken this long." 
"[Israel has0 immense influence in the region and throughout the world. I am convinced that forging ties with Israel will be in our [Somalia's] mutual interest. One of the reasons we need to establish ties with Israel sooner rather than later is to bring an end to the war of the extremists that is being waged against our people on a daily basis. The bloodletting of our people must end sooner rather than later and we will need all the help we can get to achieve this goal."
"I believe Israel can help us swing the pendulum of violence in our country’s favor. Israel can also open doors for Somalia because of its sheer influence. They say time and tide wait for no man and I believe ties with Israel should have been established a long time ago. But this is now something I have taken on as a mission that must be accomplished."
"The Palestinians are their worst enemies. They never miss an opportunity to miss a chance. They are idiots and losers in Gaza. They should be condemned each time they attack civilians. It is in our interest to welcome Israel.:
"As you know, our country is dependent on the international community for support and solidarity, and the practice of anti-Semitism in our government is unacceptable if not unthinkable. Bigotry in our government is against everything we stand for as a nation."
"There are over 20 Muslim countries that have diplomatic ties with Israel… There is absolutely no reason why Somalia too should not establish diplomatic ties with Israel."
"You are making it like coming out of a closet. I don’t see it that way. To the contrary, I think forging ties with Israel is in the national interest of my country. We can only ignore regional and global trends at [our own] peril."
Abdullahi Dool, senior Somali diplomat, fired for publicly advocating the establishment of formal relations with Israel

Hostility to Israel and the threats and violence that have characterized its neighbours' reaction to Israel's presence in the Middle East have undergone a sea change. Israel is located in a tough neighbourhood. Where tribal, clan and sectarian loyalties represent collaberative alliances and irrepressible flare-ups of antagonistic fervour. The nations of the Middle East, with its ethnic and tribal histories of warfare simmer beneath the facade of civilized demeanor, but none is too far from flare-ups reflecting a history of challenging one another for existential resources.

Even at a time when the oil sheikdoms, kingdoms and tyrannies have found themselves a source of wealth through the simple extraction of petroleum resources naturally endowed in the region, jealousies and power manoeuvring, along with sectarian hostilities ensures that suspicion rules. The people of Muslim-majority countries, tiring of the constant state of manipulated indebtedness to their rulers at a time when mass communication invites them to see how free people in democratic nations live in more equitably-shared wealth and personal freedoms, agitate for change.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Qaboos Al-Said (VOA)

Current-day challenges and distractions along with ongoing divisions between more fundamentalist sharia-observing nations and less restrictive administrations opening themselves to European and Western types of governance and cultural refinements have tempered Sunni-led resistance to Israel's presence, moving from violent military attacks to isolating Israel, to finally relaxing relations toward toleration however grudging in character and critical outwardly, while discreetly opening diplomatic relations.

The rise of Iran's revolutionary Shi'ism and its stealth plans to dominate the region, first by making itself indispensable to the incitement of hatred against Israel through its dedicated aspirations of destroying its presence on 'consecrated' Islamic ground, carefully nurturing terrorist groups cradling a like agenda for themselves while orchestrating attacks against Jewish targets outside the Middle East has ensured that Israel's attention turned from its erstwhile adversaries' threats, now muted, to that of the Islamic Republic of Iran's.

Iran has succeeded in establishing a critical mass in a pincer movement pushing Arab Muslim countries into defensive mode in recognition of its threat inherent in a Shi'ite crescent including Lebanon, Syria, (nominally Qatar and Iraq) and Yemen, minorities though they may be in comparison to the majority Sunni states. Its insistence on establishing itself as a regional power and its unstoppable aspiration to acquire nuclear weapons concern the majority Sunnis. That they and Israel recognize a common enemy has aided their rapprochement.

Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union Flags

AE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt Reject Text Opposing Normalization with Israel at Inter-Arab Forum

Arabs respect power and might. They have no use for half-measures, for reassurances of accommodation in a civilized mode of conciliation. Military prowess as a show of strength and purpose is what gains their respect as opposed to appeasement in the interests of accommodation which is viewed as a sign of weakness. Israel has fought every step of the way to attain its statehood and to protect it from superior military numbers to its own; each of the conflicts forced upon the Jewish state was forcefully dealt with in Israel's favour.

The Arab powers might be angry and resentful but they also admire the determination and strength that achieved that outcome and with that came respect and the self-admission that their own stability in the region might be better achieved with cooperation with Israel against a common enemy. The Arab states became wealthy not because of entrepreneurial skills, scientific achievement, intellectual capability, but because they could rely on the riches of natural resources.

Israel became a power house of technical advances in water desalinzation and purification, agricultural expertise -- but also in advanced science, medicine and technology.

Buildings hit by Houthi rockets in Najran, Saudi Arabia, August 2016. Photograph: Reuters

Recognizing the need for diversification and to achieve skills in entrepreneurship to augment reliance on oil shipments abroad, and tourism, along with the need to protect themselves from the malignant plans of Persian Shi'ite Iran, it's little wonder the grudging admission that peace with Israel became an option, where any manner of 'normalcy' with the Jewish state up to now was anathema. The Palestinians are livid with this state of affairs, which they stigmatize as abandonment of their cause; it was those Arab states to begin with, that assured Palestinians in 1948 that Israel would be destroyed and Palestinians could return to 'their' land.

Alexander Shatilov shown on the screen singing along with Israel’s national anthem “HaTikvah” after winning a gold medal at the Gymnastics World Cup in Doha, Qatar. Photo: Screenshot.

Now, the United Arab Emirates has opened civil diplomatic relations with Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Oman with mutual compliments exchanged and interest expressed in forging closer alliances. A number of African nations have declared themselves interested in opening closer relations with Israel, thanks to Israel's active and deliberate outreach program. Qatar's Artistic Gymnastics World Cup featured an Israeli winning gold, with the Israeli national anthem and flag played and flown for the first time in an Arab state.

UN peacekeepers with a billboard showing Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Khomeini after the Israel-Hezbollah war, southern Lebanon, September 2006. Photograph: Francois Mori/AP

There was a time when Iran, under Shah Mohammad Rezi Pahlavi, before the 1979 Iranian Revolution, had good, stable relations with Israel. Turkey, until the ascension of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist Justice and Development Party had close collaborative relations with Israel, since deteriorated beyond repair. The Middle East and Muslim nations are nothing if not changeable and occasionally beyond fissionable.

Which brings us to Israel's relations with the Palestinians, Fatah and Hamas, the former a covert terrorist group, the latter overt, but both sharing a like goal; the elimination of Israel.

They have become lifelong enemies of Israel, aspirants to possession of the heritage Judaic land on which Israel sits. Both have inspired hatred and vengeance in their young through tutoring hate in school curricula, youth camps, television programs, to ensure the next generation of Palestinians willing and able to engage in violent assaults against Jews will not be terminated. Those who die in the attempt to extract life from Jews become celebrated martyrs whom schools, squares, public centers and soccer fields are named after, as heroes.

Palestinian 'protesters' on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, October 2018. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

Palestinian terrorists who plot violence against Israel, who are imprisoned for murdering Jews, are paid salaries by the Palestinian Authority. They view it as their sacred obligation to themselves to make certain that their population hates, fears and pledges to violence against Jews. The Palestinians, had they agreed to reconciliation, cooperation and a peace agreement, could at many junctures over the years have had a state of their own, and with that state as neighbours of Israel they would have benefited hugely, industrially, economically.

They chose, time and again, not to. The allure was vengeance.

Now, Arab states in their aggregate have come around to deciding otherwise, seeking economic benefits from connecting with Israel; seeing benefits that can accrue to them in many spheres of an improved economic, technological, scientific collaborative future with a capitalistic, democratic, liberal nation next to their own. But then, this being the Middle East, the lesson of Iran's and Turkey's once-close relationship with Israel expresses its own cautionary tale for the future.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said Al Said, in Muscat in October 2018. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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