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America's entanglement with Israel

Archive for October 2013

Maidhc Ó Cathail interviewed by Ryan Dawson on the Israeli connection to Westgate mall attack — Part 1 of 2

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Written by Maidhc Ó Cathail

October 15, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Incredible Israeli Tales of Lucky Escapes in Westgate Attack

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Maidhc Ó Cathail
The Passionate Attachment
October 12, 2013

In the wake of terrorist attacks that invariably seem to benefit Israel, an increasingly expected feature is the incredible tales of lucky escapes — some less credible than others — subsequently told either by Israelis or Tel Aviv’s foreign agents. Soon after the attacks on September 11, 2001, the former chairman of the United Jewish Appeal in New York explained how his wife’s insistence that he not miss a dermatologist’s appointment that morning saved him from almost certain death in the Twin Towers. The owner of the World Trade Center had spent every morning subsequent to July 26 holding breakfast meetings in the Windows on the World restaurant and getting to know his new tenants right up to the morning of September 10. Within hours of three WTC towers being demolished, Silverstein’s close friend Benjamin Netanyahu predicted that the day’s horrific events would be “very good” for Israel’s relations with the United States.

Like the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., stories have also emerged of Israelis who miraculously escaped serious harm or death during last month’s terrorist attack on the Israeli-owned Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. As Albert Attias, the head of the Jewish community in the Kenyan capital and an Israeli military veteran, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

No Jews were among the victims of the attack, according to Attias, which occurred as many community members attended the bar mitzvah celebration of an Israeli diplomat’s son.

However, one member of the Jewish community, comprised mostly of Israeli businessmen and their families, who wasn’t lucky enough to have been attending the bar mitzvah celebration hosted by the anonymous diplomat as the attack started at the Israeli-owned Artcaffe brasserie, had his incredible tale recounted by a named Israeli diplomat. Reports The Jewish Press:

Omri, an Israeli employed at the Kenyan capital Nairobi Westgate shopping center which is still under terrorist attack this weekend, told Israeli consul Sima Amitai that he saw a hand grenade rolling between his legs and exploding. Both Omri’s legs were injured in the explosion, but only lightly. “It was a miracle,” he said.

Amitai met Omri in a Nairobi hospital where he had been treated for his injuries. She then took him to recover in her own apartment in toen [sic].

A report in Israel Hayom that only refers to “Omri” as “another Israeli who suffered light shrapnel wounds in his lower limbs” provides little further explanation of the consul’s surprising move:

He was taken to a local hospital, but the Israeli consul in Nairobi, Sima Amitai, decided to transfer him to her home for the reminder [sic] of his treatment.

Interestingly, the caring consul’s previous posting appears to have been to Bulgaria, a country that also recently experienced a murky terrorist attack on an Israeli target. There are reports of Amitai attending events in Sofia in 2006 and 2009, but it is unclear whether she was still working in Bulgaria during the Burgas bus bombing on July 18, 2012, or if by then she had already been posted to Kenya.

The Jewish Press also reports that Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to Kenya Yaki Lopez and the embassy’s security officer arrived at the command center of the local security forces soon after the first reports about the attack:

“We knew the shopping center is owned by Israelis and renowned as a place where many Israelis hang out,” Lopez told Maariv. “Four of the restaurants there are also owned by Israelis and many Israelis are employed in the place. They were our main concern—but we also support our Kenyan friends and ready to assist in whichever way they ask.”

Yet despite the large number of Israeli employers, employees and customers one would normally expect to have been in the Westgate mall, “Omri” appears to have been only one of three Israeli nationals left inside the mall during the siege:

Two other Israelis had been trapped inside the mall. One, a woman, was eventually rescued by Kenyan forces. She reported hearing shots and hand grenade explosions around her hiding place. She kept in phone contact with embassy staff throughout the ordeal. A third Israeli managed to flee on his own from the mall.

Haaretz confirms the unexpectedly low Israeli presence at the time of the not unexpected attack:

Officials in the Israeli foreign ministry said that three Israeli citizens that were in the mall at the time of the attack were able to escape unharmed and were collected by the Deputy Israeli Ambassador to Kenya Yaki Lopez and the embassy security officer that were present on the scene.

Two Israeli men that managed to escape on their own and an Israeli woman that hid in one of the businesses and was rescued by the local security forces. A senior official at the foreign ministry said that the families of the Israelis that escaped the incident were informed. The ministry said that beyond these persons it is believed that no other Israelis were present.

Although Israeli police and intelligence sources are claiming that “they fell down badly in Kenya,” with Israeli security agents apparently having failed to detect extensive terrorist surveillance of the Westgate mall and the smuggling into it of large stocks of ammunition, they must at least be relieved that no Israeli suffered more than light shrapnel wounds in an attack that resulted in at least 72 deaths — and another massive boost for Israel’s already booming “security” industry.

Maidhc Ó Cathail is an investigative journalist and Middle East analyst. He is also the creator and editor of The Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the U.S.-Israeli relationship. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @O_Cathail.

Written by Maidhc Ó Cathail

October 12, 2013 at 9:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Israel’s Westgate Intelligence ‘Failure’ — A Golden Cupid’s Arrow for Blossoming Israeli-Indian ‘Military Romance’

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Maidhc Ó Cathail
The Passionate Attachment
October 10, 2013

Speaking of the post-Westgate boon to Israel’s arms industry being likely to extend far beyond the borders of its “forward base” in East Africa, Tablet Magazine has just published an intriguing article on the increasingly intimate Israeli-Indian “military romance,” and “How last month’s attacks in Nairobi, a reminder of the Mumbai siege, may bring them even closer together.” Writes the Bangalore-based Mark Bergen:

For India, the Shabab terrorist attack in Nairobi last month struck a nerve. It was eerily reminiscent of the siege by a militant group from Pakistan in Mumbai, five years ago, in which more than 160 people were killed, including the local Chabad rabbi and his wife. Since then, the Indian government has grown closer to Israel, which was one of the first nations to come to its aid in 2008.

Tel Aviv’s alacrity to help its terror-stricken partner has certainly paid off. As Bergen points out:

Last year, Israel topped the list of arms suppliers to India—just as India officially became the globe’s largest arms importer. And it’s not just missiles and drones: India has increasingly leaned on Tel Aviv for high-tech warfare, scooping up the Phalcon airborne radar and advanced electronic surveillance systems along with equipment to retrofit now-rickety Soviet-era weaponry.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military intelligence website DEBKAfile claims:

In private conversation, Israeli police and intelligence sources admit they fell down badly in Kenya, their failure all the more galling in view of Al Qaeda having targeted a center which houses many Israel-owned and managed businesses. Their most urgent task now is to find out how terrorist spies were able to conduct repeated surveillance excursions in the Westgate mall – and even smuggle in large stocks of ammunition for a long siege – undetected by Israeli security agents and without them sounding the alarm.

Oddly enough, every “failure” involving Israeli “security” only seems to enhance the industry’s bottom line.

Maidhc Ó Cathail is an investigative journalist and Middle East analyst. He is also the creator and editor of The Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the U.S.-Israeli relationship. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @O_Cathail.

Written by Maidhc Ó Cathail

October 10, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Westgate — If Al-Shabab didn’t exist, Israel would have to invent it

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Maidhc Ó Cathail
The Passionate Attachment
October 7, 2013

Speaking at this year’s annual conference of the pro-Israel J Street lobby group, the self-avowed “Zionist” U.S. Vice President Joe Biden declared, “If there were not an Israel, we’d have to invent one.” VP Biden’s sycophantic assertion that the so-called “Jewish state” constitutes a strategic asset for the United States clearly flies in the face of more than six decades of evidence to the contrary. However, one could certainly imagine a more candid Israeli politician admitting after the murky attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, “If there were not an al-Shabab, we’d have to invent one.”

Indeed, as the sub-heading of a September 23 report in Haaretz observed, “Israel’s already intimate ties with Kenya [are] likely to deepen in wake of terror attack.” Describing the East African country as “Israel’s forward base in Africa,” Barak Ravid wrote:

On March 15, 2007, a diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi met with the director general of the Kenyan Foreign Ministry, Tom Amolo. The high-ranking Kenyan official said Kenya and Israel had maintained close security and intelligence cooperation for many years and were in contact at every level and in every field of endeavor.

“Israel is a key geo-strategic partner,” he told the American diplomat in the Kenyan capital, according to U.S. State Department cable that was leaked to WikiLeaks. “It is a suitable counterweight for us to those states in our region that do not share our values,” Amolo was quoted as saying. The American diplomat added in parentheses that Amolo appeared to be referring to Sudan.

Foreign media reports of Israeli advisers arriving in Nairobi on Sunday to help Kenyan security forces handle the hostage crisis at the upscale Westgate shopping mall in the city, where dozens of people were killed Saturday in an attack by Islamic militants, are in line with the intimate security and intelligence cooperation between the two countries.

In the aftermath of the attack, this cooperation is expected to become even closer.

And that’s clearly news that will help alleviate any “concerns” that an already booming Israeli export industry may have about the future. As Ravid further noted:

Kenya has also been a customer of Israel Military Industries. Israel sold Kenya a considerable amount of weaponry, but beyond that, Israel has provided military know-how. Hundreds of Kenyan soldiers in recent years have received training in combating terrorism in Israel or were trained in Kenya by official or semi-official Israeli instructors.

Moreover, the post-Westgate boon to Israel’s so-called “defense” industry is likely to extend far beyond the borders of its “forward base” in East Africa. In a laudatory commentary on the unabashedly pro-Israel interview Kenya’s Foreign Minister, Amina Mohamed, gave to Al-Jazeera during the mall siege, Gamal Nkrumah wrote in the Ghanaian state-owned Daily Graphic:

Mohamed likewise revealed that the first country to come to Kenya’s rescue was Israel. She indicated that Israeli security experts were the first to arrive at Westgate. A team from Israel’s elite counter-terrorism unit assisted Kenya with handling the hostage crisis. Likewise, the Israeli border police unit Yamam was also deployed at Westgate.

The Kenyan authorities conceded that Israel’s necessary harshness in dealing with the terrorists in Westgate was softened by the country’s close diplomatic relationship with Israel and highlights how Kenya and several other African nations, south of the Sahara, collaborate very closely in security matters. The close collaboration will set a precedence [sic] as several other African countries would increasingly come to rely on Israel for assistance in security matters.

Within hours of 9/11, the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presciently predicted that the hate-inducing attacks on the United States would be “very good” for Israel’s relations with its American “partner.” Just as Al-Qaeda appears to have done its purported Zionist enemy a major favor on September 11, 2001, twelve years to the month later its Somalia-based affiliate seems to have given Israel another expected boost.

UPDATE: Speaking of the post-Westgate boon to Israel’s arms industry being likely to extend far beyond the borders of its “forward base” in East Africa, Tablet Magazine has just published an intriguing article on the increasingly intimate Israeli-Indian “military romance,” and “How last month’s attacks in Nairobi, a reminder of the Mumbai siege, may bring them even closer together.” Writes the Bangalore-based Mark Bergen:

For India, the Shabab terrorist attack in Nairobi last month struck a nerve. It was eerily reminiscent of the siege by a militant group from Pakistan in Mumbai, five years ago, in which more than 160 people were killed, including the local Chabad rabbi and his wife. Since then, the Indian government has grown closer to Israel, which was one of the first nations to come to its aid in 2008.

Tel Aviv’s alacrity to help its terror-stricken partner has certainly paid off. As Bergen points out:

Last year, Israel topped the list of arms suppliers to India—just as India officially became the globe’s largest arms importer. And it’s not just missiles and drones: India has increasingly leaned on Tel Aviv for high-tech warfare, scooping up the Phalcon airborne radar and advanced electronic surveillance systems along with equipment to retrofit now-rickety Soviet-era weaponry.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military intelligence website DEBKAfile claims:

In private conversation, Israeli police and intelligence sources admit they fell down badly in Kenya, their failure all the more galling in view of Al Qaeda having targeted a center which houses many Israel-owned and managed businesses. Their most urgent task now is to find out how terrorist spies were able to conduct repeated surveillance excursions in the Westgate mall – and even smuggle in large stocks of ammunition for a long siege – undetected by Israeli security agents and without them sounding the alarm.

Oddly enough, every “failure” involving Israeli “security” only seems to enhance the industry’s bottom line.

Maidhc Ó Cathail is an investigative journalist and Middle East analyst. He is also the creator and editor of The Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the U.S.-Israeli relationship. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @O_Cathail.

Written by Maidhc Ó Cathail

October 7, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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