Police: dozens of ISIS supporters working at Zaventem airport (no April Fools joke)

Would that this Daily Mail article were an April Fools joke. (The story was earlier reported by the Belgian press in French and in Dutch. I tweeted the coverage in Le Soir.)

Police at Brussels airport have claimed at least 50 Islamic State supporters are working there as baggage handlers, cleaners and catering staff.

In an astonishing open letter, the officers said they have warned about the terrorist sympathisers whose security badges give them access to planes, but they remain employed.

The airport police, who are threatening to go on strike because of security deficiencies, also said they have raised the issue of terrorists scouting the airport to plan possible attacks.

Police at Brussels airport have claimed at least 50 Islamic State supporters are working there as baggage handlers, cleaners and catering staff. […]

The extraordinary claims come after the Mail reported how the family of two of the bombers involved in the attacks last week said they had worked as cleaners at the airport.[…]

The officers said they had raised suspicions about certain staff members including those who apparently celebrated after the Paris attacks in November that killed 130 people.

‘When we checked these people, we were surprised more than once. It was men with a radical ideology and a long police history,’ the officers continued.

‘Even today, there are at least 50 supporters of the Islamic state who work at the airport. They have a security badge and have access to the cockpit of a plane.

And get this:

An uncle of Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui last week told how the brothers had been employed at the airport and would have gained intimate knowledge of the terminal destroyed in the carnage.

The man, who asked not to be named, told the Mail: ‘They worked cleaning at the airport and in a restaurant. They didn’t finish high school in the end. They cleaned the airport in the summer months.’

Read the whole thing and weep: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3517493/At-FIFTY-ISIS-supporters-working-baggage-handlers-cleaners-catering-staff-Brussels-airport-claim-police.html#ixzz44apMn9HM

It is high time to bring back the “pole of shame” (schandpaal), the Belgian equivalent of the pillory. On second thought, perhaps the Schwedentrunk would be more fitting…

Brussels, multiculturalism, and political AIDS

But I repeat myself.
“Belgium suffers from political AIDS in the literal sense of the word”  (La Belgique souffre du SIDA politique au sens étymologique du mot.) [Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome, Ed.]
Thus then Minister of Justice Jean Gol, longtime leader of the Reformist Liberal Party (PRL) and himself an ex-leftist, described Belgium’s political situation over two decades ago, in the wake of a wave of murderous supermarket shootings and a reverse-infiltration scandal that rocked the State Security (Belgium’s nebbishy domestic intelligence agency).
He was excoriated for his remarks at the time. Jean Gol turns out to have been a prophet.
The horrifying attacks in Brussels struck very close to home: I fly through Brussels a lot for work, and at one point we had an apartment there not far from the metro station where one bomb went off. A work colleague of mine was supposed to have been at the airport on the day of the attack but her daughter’s flight was rescheduled at the last moment.
From a large collection of anecdotal evidence (from friends, family, and first-hand) we learned that the Belgian law enforcement apparatus might be able to find its own derriere with a voice-assisted GPS on a good day. The story of the bomber about which the Turks (!) issued a warning, yet walked around freely in Belgium, speaks volumes. Here are two articles well worth reading, one by a Belgian businessman now living in the US, another by an expat American in Brussels. Both jibe very closely with my own observations from my younger (ahem) years in Europe.
I have guestblogged at Sarah Hoyt’s place about the psychological phenomenon of “displacement”.  In brief, this is the psychological defense mechanism of a human who is facing a problem or enemy (s)he is unable or unwilling to confront, to go seek out some 7th-order issue or “small fry” enemy, which they can than easily “take care of”, so they can “prove” they are still relevant. We see this also in the EU: faced with the twin powder kegs of Islamofascism and the potential backlash of their own populations against the elites who have nurtured that viper on Europa’s bosom (see my earlier blog post Scenes from Europe before the storm), the Euro elites continue to bury their heads in the sand and instead obsess over such issues of crucial world-historical importance as the labeling of SodaStream dispensers: whether they are produced in Israel or in the “occupied”/disputed territories. (Needless to say, a number of snarky comments could be heard on the Israeli street the day after the attacks ;))
Belgium’s way of “coping” with Islamofascist extremism appears to have been primarily to… let them do their thing as long as they did not run too wild inside Belgian borders. St-Jean-Molenbeek, the borough of Brussels where the “he-goat milkers” (Kurdish insult for DAESHbags/ISISholes) hang out,  has effectively been abandoned by the ‘natives’ and has become a no-go zone for the locals. Other areas in the boroughs of St-Josse and Schaerbeek are at the very least in the same direction, and the last time I walked near the Brussels South station, I wished I were ‘packing heat’.
Speaking of which: some idiotic MSNBC (but I repeat myself) article claimed that the arsenals held by the terrorists “prove the need for gun control”. In fact, Belgium, despite being a major manufacturer and exporter of small arms (FN-Browning in Herstal, near Liege) has among the most stringent gun control laws in the world. Depending on the source, legal gun possession ranges between 4 and 6%, and the number of carry permits is minuscule. (When I used to live there, as an arms dealer explained to me, carrying a handgun required four separate licenses: purchase, possession, transport, and carry — the latter was only issued very rarely.) On the other hand, whoever has underworld connections and/or a lot of money and no questions can procure just about any lethal hardware illegally in Brussels if one knows where to go. This is nothing new, BTW: Brussels has had a flourishing black market in firearms (as well as forged identity documents, etc.) for decades — for so long, in fact, that Frederick Forsyth could incorporate it as a plot device into his classic thriller The Day Of The Jackal, set in the early 1960s.If nothing else, it proves that disarming the law-abiding populace merely empowers criminals and terrorists. (See my earlier reflections here.)
When I first took a job in Israel many, many years ago, a number of Belgian (and other) friends could not understand our decision to go live “in such a violent region”. My response then: “don’t worry, your turn will come”. I wish to G-d I had been wrong then.
There are some signs of hope. The strongest political party now is the conservative, Flemish-Nationalist N-VA, led by an avowed admirer of Edmund Burke. (N-VA is emphatically not to be confused with the collectivist, “blood and soil” Vlaams Belang.) The current government is making baby steps to rolling back the worst excesses of “de multikul/le multicul” as brainless multiculturalism is called in Dutch and French, respectively. (“cul”=’b*tt’ in French, hence kul=‘nonsense, BS’ in Dutch.) In an opinion piece in De Standaard (highbrow Dutch-language newspaper), veteran editor Mia Doornaert even argued for getting rid of the “hapless” (“heilloze”) term “Islamophobia”. She also rightly called the claim that Muslims are the new Jews “an obscenity”.
But will the European elites be mugged by reality, or will they continue to say “après nous le deluge” (after us, come the Great Flood)?

[…] The fate of all mankind I see
Is in the hands of fools

Confusion will be my epitaph
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it we can all sit back and laugh
But I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying…

PS: lest you think that Islamofascism is only a threat to the West, and not to non-Islamists elsewhere, think again.

PPS: French intellectual celebrity Bernard-Henri Levy, himself threatened by extremists from Belgium: Europe might be dying.

Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light…

UPDATE 3: Belgian soldiers standing on guard had no bullets. As “Dianne” quipped on Facebook, “it’s like a bad Monty Python skit”.

UPDATE 4: A penpal in Belgium sent me this article in Het Nieuwsblad (in Dutch), in which former Belgian minister of justice Marc Verwilghen reveals that his prior attempts to institute even limp-wristed anti-terrorist measures were blocked by former PM Elio di Rupo (Socialist Party chairman at the time, as well as alleged “Wicked Uncle Ernie“) and his party comrade, deputy PM Laurette Onkelinx, as “racist” and “creating stateless persons”.

Theater of the absurd: silent intifada edition

There is currently a bloody wave of stabbings and other impromptu terror attacks going on in Israel. The perpetrators appear to be principally East Jerusalem Arabs with Israeli (“blue”) ID cards, who therefore have freedom of movement in Israel. As usual, the Islamofascists’ useful idiots in the West and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) ignore the suffering or blame the victim.

The Border Police (technically a branch of the IDF) is doing the L-rd’s work protecting us, and courageous bystanders to attacks have responded with whatever improvised means at hand (in one case in Ra`anana, an office worker attacked the stabber with his umbrella!).

Which makes some Americans, used to the 2nd Amendment, wonder: why no more Israelis with firearms on the street? Believe it or not, gun ownership in Israel is actually severely restricted. A detailed summary in English of Israel’s firearms legislation can be found here at the Law Library of Congress. In short, Israel is a ‘discretionary issue’ country, where one must demonstrate a need for the possession of a firearm by one’s place of residence (e.g., in the disputed territories or otherwise in the proximity of ‘Palestinians’), by one’s profession (e.g., a driver who routinely transports parties of five or more people can get a handgun license fairly easily). Other eligibility requirements include passing periodic psychological evaluations and firearm proficiency tests. Licenses are easier to obtain if one has served honorably in an IDF combat unit or in the police, especially at officer rank. As of 2012, only about 175,000 valid firearm licenses (which typically cover one firearm and a supply of 50 bullets) are in circulation in Israel (with a population of about 8 million). Twice as many licenses used to be in circulation when the population was much smaller.

IDF soldiers on active duty in combat units are allowed to bring home their service weapon (typically an assault rifle or submachine gun), since they should be available for action at a moment’s notice. IDF noncombat personnel in ‘day service’ positions (i.e., many female recruits) often travel to and from the base in uniform with no other protection than pepper spray and whatever unarmed combat skills they may have acquired on their own. This effectively makes them sitting ducks to such stabbers.

Behold the theater of the absurd: an army called the Israel Defense Forces that is effectively depriving a substantial portion of its manpower of the means to defend themselves. Had the recent stabbing attacks been attempted in my other home in the Dallas suburbs, chances are the terrorist svolochy would have been turned into sieves in short order at the hands of whatever civilians who were carrying.

The ‘logic’ behind hamstringing the IDF noncombat manpower is probably a combination of risk-averseness (in a country with mandatory service), political correctness, inventory issues, and fear firearms may fall into the wrong hands (terrorists or underworld). I dearly hope somebody has the wisdom to rethink this. A defense force that is disallowed to defend itself sounds like an… 0bamination.

On “proportionality” in war

Most people that throw around the accusation of “disproportionate response” refer to some vague conception of approximate parity in casualties and means. In fact, as I noted yesterday, international law has its own definition of “disproportionality”, which is both quite specific and rather different from the use in common parlance. (Just like “insanity” for legal purposes is not some vague term for crazy behavior but a term of art with a precise definition.)

Humanitarian law expert Prof. Laurie Blank, on the Volokh Conspiracy group-blog, gives a long expose on the meaning of “disproportionality”, following her earlier op-ed elsewhere. (H/t: commenter “VultureTX” at an Elder of Ziyon piece on proportionality in the Gaza War.)

[…] proportionality is more than just a principle; it is a methodology for assessing lawfulness in advance through careful consideration of both the value of the military advantage and the likelihood of civilian casualties. The principle tells us what we are trying to achieve — a balance between military needs and humanitarian concerns that minimizes civilian harm as much as possible. […] As I note in my earlier piece, “Asymmetries and Proportionalities,” assessing the legality of an attack that results in civilian casualties must be done prospectively, based on the information the commander knew or should have known at the time of the attack. The standard is “reasonableness” — whether a reasonable commander in the same position would determine, based on the information available at the time, that the expected civilian casualties would be excessive in light of the anticipated military advantage.

Key to this assessment is not whether the court, the media, or anyone else thinks the decision was right or would have actually made the very same decision. Nor is it whether any resulting casualties seemed or even were excessive afterwards. The controlling factor in assessing proportionality after an attack is whether the commander’s determination—that the likely civilian casualties in that operation would not be excessive—was reasonable. This reasonableness assessment can only be made with a full understanding of the situation and all relevant information at the time of the attack — and, just as important — an awareness of what is considered to be reasonable in light of general practice.

International tribunals have rarely undertaken this analysis. This may well be simply because they have no lack of much easier and obvious cases. Their dockets can easily be filled to overflowing with the staggering number of deliberate crimes against civilians […] The difficulty in translating the proportionality rule from the operational dynamic of the battlefield and the fog of war to the evidence-bound confines of the courtroom is certainly another factor. The few instances of adjudication, however, consistently reinforce both the prospective approach and reasonableness as the touchstones of the analysis. Responsible militaries, for their part, investigate and review every incident involving civilian casualties to determine whether further investigation or prosecution is warranted—and simply to improve training and implementation to mitigate civilian harm in future missions. Both internal and international inquiries have often explored, or attempted to explore, proportionality with respect to specific incidents.

Elder of Ziyon quotes a specific example in jurisprudence: a NATO attack on a Serbian TV station in which 16 people died. (The station was off the air for about a day.)

NATO Headquarters justified the bombing with two arguments; firstly, that it was necessary “to disrupt and degrade the command, control and communications network” of the Yugoslav Armed Forces, and secondly, that the RTS headquarters was a dual-use object which “was making an important contribution to the propaganda war which orchestrated the campaign against the population of Kosovo”. The BBC reported that the station was targeted because of its role in Belgrade’s propaganda campaign; RTS had been broadcasting Serb nationalist propaganda, which demonised ethnic minorities and legitimised Serb atrocities against them.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ruled on the question:

It first questioned whether the station was a legitimate military target, and it decided that if it was used for command and control then it was, if it was only used for propaganda it wasn’t. It then goes on:

77. Assuming the station was a legitimate objective, the civilian casualties were unfortunately high but do not appear to be clearly disproportionate.[…]

79. On the basis of the above analysis and on the information currently available to it, the committee recommends that the OTP not commence an investigation related to the bombing of the Serbian TV and Radio Station.

In short: an attack on a propaganda TV station that may have had a dual use and that takes it off the air for one lousy day in exchange for 16 people getting killed is not considered “disproportionate” under international law. You can figure out for yourself what this ruling implies (a fortiori/קל וחומר) for IDF attacks on rocket launchers, arms caches, and infiltration tunnels, or targeted assassination of senior terrorists.

Back to Prof. Blank:

[A] note about another rule of proportionality. The international law governing when states may use force in self-defense (the jus ad bellum) also has a requirement of proportionality, but it is quite distinct (and serves a different purpose) from the law of war rule of proportionality discussed above. This jus ad bellum rule of proportionality mandates that a state acting in self-defense in response to an armed attack can only use force that is proportionate to the needs and goals of repelling or deterring the attack. This is not a “tit-for-tat” requirement, however, limiting the state acting in self-defense to only what its attackers did. There is no obligation of symmetry between the original attack and the force used in self-defense; indeed, the force needed to repel an attack may well be disproportionate relative to the the original attack, in order to stop it and deter continuing attacks. What it must be, instead, is proportionate to the ends of stopping and deterring the original attack and further attacks.

Go and read the whole thing.

An unexpected voice of common sense from Belgium on Israel-Gaza

In the past I have been witheringly critical of the hypocrisy and moral preening of most of the the Euro press and politicians when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict— of which Belgium is a poster boy.

The present round is no exception, except that the Orwellian spectacle of “progressive” (and often soi-disant “anticlerical”) pols choosing the side of an ultra-reactionary theocratic dictatorship against a liberal Western democracy makes the irony ever sweeter 😉

However, I was pleasantly surprised by an op-ed on the Belgian state TV site by Mark Geleyn, the retired director-general of Belgium’s foreign ministry (and past ambassador to Germany and to Israel). The original is in Dutch, while a machine translation can be viewed here. Some highlights translated by me (as closely to the original as possible):

Israel had no other choice

Of course the Israeli conduct of war was “not proportional”. Perhaps Israel should instead have fired rockets indiscriminately [into Gaza], or build tunnels to carry out terror attacks in Gaza, or kidnap inhabitants? A defense that remains “proportional” with the aggression is not a deterrent. Only a defense that deters and drives up the price for aggression is credible.

Note that, speaking to an audience of critics, he invokes proportionality as the common person understands the concept — which is not the same as the definition in the international law of war (which defines disproportionality by the much more restrictive standard of “clearly excessive response”) But let’s continue

Last June Hamas had hit rock bottom. In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood had been ousted and the border with Egypt was shut again. In Syria, Assad kicked the political leader of Hamas, Khaled  Meshal, out of the country. The Saudis and Jordanians distanced themselves. The only remaining allies were Turkey, where president Erdogan is trying to curry favor with islamist voters, and Qatar, which is basically not a state at all but a family with a whole lot of money.

In Gaza itself Hamas lost support among the population. Under the circumstances, the Hamas leadership consented to forming a coalition with the Palestinian Authority of  president Abbas. A humiliating step for Hamas, in the hopen that Abbas would at least pay the salaries of 40,000 Gazan civil servants. This did not happen.

No money, no allies, little support from the people. In the Arab world that always leaves you one more option: attack Israel. This is what Saddam Hussein did in 1991 […] and now Hamas did too, with Iranian rockets aimed at Israeli population centers.

Israel deliberately set limited objectives for its operation in response. It did not aim for the destruction of Hamas, which would entail reoccupation of Gaza, but instead for the elimination of the terriër infrastructire. That however involved destruction of residential areas from which rockets were fired and where the tunnels started through which attack squads were sent into Israel. This destruction took a toll in dead and injured. In the course of the operation became clear how extensive and complex the network of attack tunnels was, what the imported cement for ‘residential construction’ had [actually] been used for, and for which purposes the Gaza leadership applied their inventiveness and creativity.

Is there no way out of this ever-repeating cycle of murderous rockets and harsh counterattacks, which has been turning in all its ruthlessness since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005?

Arab governments and Israel all know that a political way out only can consist of lifting the blockade, economic growth, and weakening Hamas.

There are already numerous scenarios, blueprints, and road maps in that direction. All demand that Hamas stops the rocket attacks on Israel, destroys the attack tunnels, and is disarmed. In return Israel and Egypt would phase out their blockade and gradually open border crossings. The international community would then lend its support to reconstruction. These blueprints have been making the rounds for years between Jerusalem, Washington, Cairo, the Palestinian Authority, Gaza and the EU countries.

The trouble is: Hamas does not think in terms of growth, prosperity, and political compromise. It is not an NGO, even though it does welfare work among the poor of Gaza. Hamas is a terror organization and its aim the destruction of Israel.

[…]

After rocket attacks on Tel Aviv, after the threat to air traffic over Israel and after a rocket impact near [the] Dimona [nuclear research center] all initiative for a partial withdrawal from the West Bank [can be expected to be] put in the fridge. The course of the Syrian civil war, the evolution [ahem] in Iraq, and possible upheavals in Jordan clamor for attention.

Israel will only be willing to consider very pragmatic measures, and for that it looks first to Egypt. [..]

The US Secretary of State Kerry humiliated Cairo and Israel, after Hamas refused the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, by going off to negotiate with Hamas allies Qatar and Turkey, for a new truce that Hamas would accept. With that, he made a move in the direction of recognition of Hamas and exacerbated the rupture between Cairo and Ankara, which had been avoided in 2009 and 2012.

[…]

As usual, there are demonstrations in many European cities in support of the Palestinian cause. [Demonstrating] is of course their right.

But most of these demonstrations, whether by Arab youth or by “native” intellectuals and “policy influencers”, turn out to degenerate over and over into selective manifestations against Israel, Zionism, and Jews. The same protestors didn’t make a peep during the fighting in Libya, where 30,000 people died in the past two years. Is there going to be a UN investigation about these atrocities? And where were the demonstrations against well over 100,000 dead in Syria?

Nor do I hear of demonstrations, not even of op-eds, against the maltreatment and expulsion of 10,000 Christians from Mosul in Iraq, after the takeover by the Islamist ISIS. […]

Is the “enemy image” [more freely: bête noire] Israel still necessary to arouse indignation against alleged injustice in the world?

 

NYT discovers Hamas manipulation of casualty figures, buries lede [UPDATE: BBC head of statistics concurs] [UPDATE 2: more new statistics]

Brian of London reports that Judi Rudoren of the NYTimes finally is onto what he and other bloggers have been saying for weeks:

The Times analysis, looking at 1,431 names, shows that the population most likely to be militants, men ages 20 to 29, is also the most overrepresented in the death toll: They are 9 percent ofGaza’s 1.7 million residents, but 34 percent of those killed whose ages were provided. At the same time, women and children under 15, the least likely to be legitimate targets, were the most underrepresented, making up 71 percent of the population and 33 percent of the known-age casualties.

Typically, this is buried in the last paragraph of the piece. Brian adds:

So basically, ignoring minor details like the fact that they’re starting their age bracket at 20 (we have a Hamas terrorist in hospital in Israel who is 16 who crawled through a tunnel to kill kids), they’ve come to the same conclusion Dave and our dedicated reader came to weeks ago.

The talk of 80% civilian casualties is complete rubbish and was easily verifiable as rubbish just from looking at Al Jazeera weeks ago. And the NYT actually had people in Gaza!

And as Israeli sources are talking about 900+ dead terrorists, something is going to collapse, just like it always does after months of the lying press repeating Hamas’s PR machine propaganda.

And as I blogged earlier, TIME magazine (!) reminds us that on a previous occasion, HamAss was forced to walk back their own mendacious statistics, at least for Arab media consumption:

We have seen this before. A similar dispute over casualty figures occurred during Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” in the Gaza Strip in January 2009. The Israelis contended that the majority of the fatalities were combatants; the Palestinians claimed they were civilians. The media and international organizations tended to side with the Palestinians. The UN’s own investigatory commission headed by Richard Goldstone, which produced the Goldstone Report, cited PCHR’s figures along with other Palestinian groups providing similar figures. Over a year later, after the news media had moved on, Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad enumerated Hamas fatalities at 600 to 700, a figure close to the Israeli estimate of 709 and about three times higher than the figure of 236 combatants provided by PCHR in 2009 and cited in the Goldstone Report. Initially, playing to the international audience, it was important for Hamas to reinforce the image of Israel’s military action as indiscriminate and disproportionate by emphasizing the high number of civilians and low number of Hamas combatants among the fatalities. However, later on, Hamas had to deal with the flip side of the issue: that Hamas’s own constituency, the Gazan population, felt they had been abandoned by the Hamas government, which had made no effort to shelter them.

But none are so blind as those who would not see. At any case, as sharply critical as I have been about the NYT on, basically, everything: even a half-hearted beginning of searching for the true facts must be applauded.

UPDATE: via the Times of Israel liveblog, BBC Head of Statistics Anthony Reuben is skeptical of Hamas claims  too:

So there were 216 members of armed groups killed, and another 725 men who were civilians. Among civilians, more than three times as many men were killed as women, while three times as many civilian men were killed as fighters. […I]f the Israeli attacks have been “indiscriminate”, as the UN Human Rights Council says, it is hard to work out why they have killed so many more civilian men than women.

UPDATE 2: Another report from the Times of Israel.

Israellycool (still ahead of the MSM) updated their analysis to the August 6, 2014 fatalities list, and point to an interesting additional coincidence:

Another point to consider is Gaza has a natural death rate of 3.09/1000, meaning that over a year, from every 1000 people, 3.09 die. So if you upscale that to the 1.8 million there that are 5562 dying from natural causes. Which is around 15 people/per day, or about 450 people for the entire operation. If you look the number of casualties whose age is unknown (male 252 & female 67), and the total unidentified 128, that sums up to 447 casualties. Although this proves nothing, I can’t help but feel suspicious when I see these numbers matching up so well. It would be a clever way to increase the casualty count, with even the most eagle eyed missing it.